Trending Topics

‘Just Going to Force Me to Spend Less Money’: Walgreens’ New Concept Store Has Some Scratching Their Heads. Is It About Theft or Customer Convenience?

As the world moves from a Flintstones model to a Jetsons reality, major corporations are looking to incorporate technology into everyday lives in dynamic ways.

Walgreens, a company that has enjoyed almost 70 years as a Fortune 500 company, is making a bold leap in the retail space by debuting a redesigned store in downtown Chicago.

The new store looks dramatically different from all of the thousands of stores the company has across the country. This one only has two aisles featuring traditional must-have drug store items like over-the-counter medication, batteries, bandages, grab-and-go snacks, and bath and body care supplies.

In the store, located at State and Roosevelt, there is a modified pharmacy and a series of kiosks that allow customers to access other things in their inventory not visible or accessible to those in the store.

The company announced the opening of the store via its social media.

“Our new concept store provides enhanced convenience for customers by taking them through a streamlined experience,” the caption reads, adding, “Step into the future and experience it for yourself today!”

The post features a video of the store giving customers a tour and informing them that items can be purchased either online or by placing an order in the kiosk area.

The press department for the company explained in an email to CNN, the experimental shift to a hybrid model of shopping, combining in-person and digital purchases, is to “enhance the experiences of our customers and team members.”

One person on social media rhetorically asked, “What problem is this solving for the customer?”

He answered his own question, “The honest answer is: none. It’s likely solving a problem for Walgreens – theft.”

The customer visited the store and said while the intention was to streamline the store, some of the new gadgets are confusing.

“The kiosk is fairly easy to use, but it’s a bit cumbersome to navigate. It also lacks any inspiration, which is important in a category like beauty. Product choice is more limited than a regular Walgreens,” he tweeted, before calling it “an odd, somewhat over-complicated version of Walgreens!”

The narrative pushed by Walgreens is that the redesign is to make the shopping experience easier for customers. However, industry experts believe there is another reason for the modernized setup: Theft prevention.

Robb Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, an industry group representing retailers in the state, notes that Chicago has experienced an uptick in what they considered organized retail crime sprees ravaging stores like Macy’s, Walmart, Target, 7-Eleven, and Walgreens.

“This is not just about retailers losing products. These crimes are becoming more aggressive, even violent. I share the assessment that the Walgreens redesign might have also been done to limit theft, although retailers are reticent to speak about theft trends,” Karr told CNN.

Chicago is not the only city experiencing this wave of crime. Reports say all across the country stores have reported billions of dollars in stolen goods, with 2021 reporting an overall $45 billion loss, according to The Wall Street Journal.

On Friday, June 23, in a Walgreens in Queens, New York, a shoplifter brought a blowtorch into the store and melted the locked plastic case before stealing several boxes of skin care products. The man, who wore a surgical mask and his hoodie over his head, was able to walk away with $448 worth of products, according to the NY Post.

Walgreens’ chief financial officer said in January during a corporate earnings call the numbers don’t look as bad as they had previously.

James Kehoe said looking at the fourth quarter numbers of 2022 showed the company’s rate of shrink, the formula in which executives determine merchandise losses due to theft, fraud, damages, miss-scanned items, and other errors, dropped. It went from 3.5 percent of total 2021 sales to an estimated 2.5 percent in the final quarter of 2022.

“Maybe we cried too much last year,” he said about the dwindling snapshot of the shoplifting phenomenon.

The bigger question is if customers dig the change. Social media users on Instagram seemed to show a mixed verdict on the convenience, design, and intention of the store underneath Walgreens’ post about the store.

“Enhanced convenience? Lol. Are you mad?” one person commented. “I want to run into the store, grab what I need, pay, and be gone. How is making me order on a silly kiosk and wait for someone else to find time to grab my sh$t more convenient? The idea that it is more convenient is just laughable. Just be honest about the point of this idea, to curb shoplifting. Were not stupid.”

Another person agreed, saying, “You’ll also lose revenue because people won’t walk around and grab more than they originally came for.”

One customer said the brand was “just going to force me to spend less money” by not having things readily available.

Some people focused on what they predicted as the many people who will be pushed out of the workforce if this model becomes a standard, writing, “So many jobs will be lost by this kind of automation.” While another wrote, “What a terrible dystopian vision of a store, but of course I wouldn’t expect Walgreens to care about its customers or employees.”

Back to top