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Study: Drug stores continue to drive traffic amid record sales growth — here’s why

Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid contribute 87% of drug store channel sales

Drug stores receive high marks from consumers for convenience and quick-stop shopping.

Shoppers favor drug stores over grocery stores, mass retailers and online not only for pharmacy and medical needs, but also for providing an easy, convenient experience and delivering a fast trip experience, according to Acosta Group’s new “Drug Store Channel Shopper Insights Study.”

"We heard repeatedly from drug store shoppers that convenient location, discounted pricing and one-stop shopping are appealing drivers in choosing drug stores over other retail options," said Kathy Risch, senior VP, consumer insights and trends at Acosta Group.

National drug store sales had already reached $53 billion by mid-February of 2023, reflecting the third consecutive year of growth with no slow down on the horizon, reported the study, citing NielsenIQ, March 2023. The top three drug chains — Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid ‚ contribute 87% of channel sales (per Kantar, 2023).  

The study found that the majority of sales in the drug store channel come from brick & mortar stores, with one-in-three shoppers living less than a mile from a drug store. Most belong to the retailers' loyalty programs, with a smaller percentage actively using the digital app.

When it comes to the leading in-store purchases, 71% of shoppers pick up prescriptions and 70% shop the pharmacy area for non-prescription needs. Nearly 70% shop drug stores for groceries, personal needs or other needs for themselves or their families, with candy, snacks and household items such as hair care, body care and paper products, as top buys.

Other findings from the Acosta study are below.

• Drug store customers are frequent shoppers, with 58% shopping drug stores two-to-three times monthly. This past year, one-third of younger shoppers have increased their number of store trips.

• Signaling a continued focus on health and wellness, 33% of total drug store shoppers are also using in-store medical services more this year.

• Shoppers ranked convenience ranked as the top (57%) in-store benefit of pharmacies, followed by good promotions and sales (51%) and the ability to quickly shop for what they need (44%).

• Shoppers said opportunities for improvement include adding more staff members, reducing out of stocks and improving the online ordering experience.

Acosta noted that retailers will benefit from ensuring adequate staffing to maintain shoppers' preference for the channel's "quick trip" format. In addition, ensuring broad assortment, especially across health and beauty, and avoiding out-of-stocks will drive sales for non-pharmacy needs such as grocery and personal care.

Acosta Group's Drug Store Channel Shopper Insights Study was conducted from Feb. 14-23, 2023, with 1,134 primary household shoppers ages 18+ that are part of the company's proprietary Shopper Community.

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