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Big Business of WELL|November 08, 2019

A Peek Into the Health Store of the Future

The future of health care is being seized by retail, from innovative independents offering to relieve joint pain to Walmart installing examination rooms. All of which means the health store of the future is still a free-for-all. We have four observations to help retailers ensure they remain in the health industry’s heartbeat.

Health Stores Are Taking Manhattan, and Everywhere Else

Take a walk through the Flatiron District of Manhattan and you’ll find seven reasons why a little walk could be good for your health.

In an eight-block stretch, we encountered seven innovative health-care formats, from the DNTL dental bar to Stretch*d stretching studio to Standard Dose for CBD and meditation. Just 20 blocks uptown is the Apple store of cannabis, the MedMen dispensary. (There are in fact enough alternative health care shops in New York to run a comparative price check on CBD oil brands.)

And that’s just one corner of a large city among many cities that are fast transforming into health-care hubs. Alongside niche players like Standard Dose and Stretch*d, major chains are investing in formats specially designed to consult, examine and treat their shopper patients.

Big Retail Brands are Redefining Health Stores

Among the big-brand efforts:

  • CVS plans to open HealthHubs in 1,500 stores, each of which will feature a “CVS Care Concierge” to answer health insurance questions and make MinuteClinic appointments. The hubs also will include pharmacy express lanes, rooms for immunizations, diabetic screenings and medication counseling. Dieticians and respiratory specialists also will be on staff.

  • Walgreens which is closing 150 of its 350 in-store clinics, is still exploring health partnerships. It’s testing digital health stores with Microsoft to assist customers with chronic health issues, offering hearing screenings through hearing aid maker Starkey and providing on-site blood and drug tests through a partnership with LabCorp. These stores also include express prescription lanes.

  • Walmart Health, a clinic in Dallas, Georgia, is strategically spot-on with Walmart’s everyday low price position. It provides primary care visits for $40 and dental checkups for $25. Other services include X-rays and EKGs, lab work, optical, behavioral health and community health (such as nutritional services). Pharmacy access is available via several semi-enclosed stations, for discreet service. It plans a second location in early 2020.

Retailers Need to Move Faster to Win the Health Store

While we applaud these efforts, our concern is retailers aren’t moving fast enough. By the time these big names complete their expansions – CVS, for example, doesn’t expect all its Health Hubs to be open until the end of 2021 – local health companies and/or Amazon will likely have already taken over the field.

Our advice: Look to the thought leaders that are redefining what the health and wellness aisles look like this moment, and then anticipate near-term change. We offer these observations, based on our Retail Safari® and How America Shops® research.

1. Make healthy an everyday thing.

Wellness is becoming a standard part of daily life, so it should be incorporated into the entire shopping experience. The health stores of the future will make wellness seamless, affordable and time-efficient. Walmart is off to a good start placing its clinic next to a Walmart supercenter.

2. Be a trusted authority.

Shoppers are taking control of their own health care, but they still have lots of questions and will trust retailers that prove knowledgeable. Retailers that expect to sell premium-priced CBD, for instance, should make education a central part of their service by offering advice on dosing and benefits as well as reassurance on quality and sourcing.

3. Provide omni-assistance.

The retailers that stand apart in wellness today share information in all the ways their customers want it, from digital and visual displays that support self-education to knowledgeable associates who can talk it out.

4. Make the space personal.

In addition to its services, staff, education and expertise, a health store earns trust through its physical space. Health shoppers will return to stores that incorporate privacy, easy shopping, information and inspiration in calm, organized environments.

The future of health care is being written by retailers and right now it’s a mad-grab for who will eventually provide it. That means the outcome is anyone’s guess. But that won’t stop us from looking. Stay tuned.


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