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Pharmacy Interior

The pharmacy store chain Walgreens has opened its first store in Chicago without a pharmacy. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Walgreens recently opened a store in the West Loop that has no pharmacy, becoming one of the few Walgreens in the nation to serve only as a store. Customers in need of a pharmacy have been redirected to nearby Walgreens at Halsted and Monroe streets.

Losing the pharmacy represents a major shift for the Walgreens chain. Walgreens currently has 120 stores in Chicago alone and approximately 10,000 stores across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

According to Walgreens’ 2017 annual report, prescription drugs and other pharmaceutical services made up 70% of sales at its stores. This may not be too surprising considering drug discovery is a multi-billion dollar industry and medicinal cures or relief for illnesses will always be in high demand.

Just last year, Walgreens filled over 1 billion monthly prescriptions worldwide. So why open a store without a pharmacy?

Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso says he can’t confirm that Walgreens is the first drugstore to open without a pharmacy in Chicago history, but it certainly isn’t the first Walgreens to do so. Four Walgreens in New York City listed under the Duane Reade brand don’t sell prescription medications, either.

“It is rare for one of our stores to not have a pharmacy,” Caruso said. Caruso declined to comment on other reasons why the new store has opened without a pharmacy.

One potential reason the store opened without a pharmacy is that Walgreens has come under fire for opioid sales. The state of Florida recently filed a lawsuit against Walgreens and CVS for allegedly overselling painkillers and contributing to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

In 2016 alone, up to 1,186,810 arrests were made in the U.S. for drug law violations.

But, Simon Pickard, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says Walgreens may simply be moving in a new direction. Retail pharmacies, Pickard says, can be more expensive to maintain and Walgreens may be looking for other ways to stay profitable in the shadow of competition from online companies such as Amazon.

“I would imagine it’s inevitable that traditional brick-and-mortar pharmacies become less prevalent,” said Pickard.

Drugstores like Walgreens have been putting a greater focus on online and mail-order pharmacies while focusing on their cosmetics and skin-care products in-store. Event marketing has also been able to generate sales for up to 79% of marketers.

Whether Walgreens is looking to change up their retail stores or they’re looking to boost other product sales, the pharmacy-less store in the West Loop will still be selling products typically found in your average Walgreens. This includes over-the-counter medication, makeup, toiletries, food, and beer.

John Bacon, author of America’s Corner Store: Walgreens’ Prescription for Success, says Walgreens may be prototyping.

“The whole business of pharmaceuticals has gotten so complicated with Medicaid and whatnot that they’re trying to see if they can probably make their life simpler without it,” said Bacon.

Bacon pointed out that Walgreens had experimented in the 1990s with removing samples from their aisles. First, they implemented the change at a few stores before implementing it everywhere.

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