Taking a trip to CVS

I admit that I do the majority of my shopping on Amazon and rarely make a journey to the drug store. I know all about the distribution channel into grocery and drug stores. I know how brands pay to have certain shelf space. I know how the stores want constant deals so they can sell products at a discount which just cost the manufacturers money and send their margins plummeting. I know that the stores compete with their own white label products at every single level. I might know but walking through the aisles of CVS (and the grocery store) this past weekend was fascinating.

Let’s just start with the grocery which is I can not get over the amount of consumer products. Gluten-free, peanut-free, spicy, round chips, square chips, bugle chips, cookies with new concepts….honestly I could write a tome. Now to CVS where the brands open the aisles. Nothing is curated. I could only take so much before making myself crazy trying to figure out where something was.

In the early 1980’s Macy’s opened a few stores in Florida. Obviously Florida did not need the same clothing that was being sold in NYC during January but it took a while for anyone to figure that out. Curation then was not as easy as it is now. Technology has also changed manufacturing so it is not expensive to make small quantities of clothes. Everything is now streamlined with a click of a finger. You can be thoughtful about what is on each shelf or hanging on each hanger.

Why doesn’t CVS put different brands and different products in their stores based on what the product is? They can track the data. They can see what is really selling vs sitting on the shelf. I get why they have allowed brands to own their own sector. It is a way for CVS to count fixed monthly payments into their budget. Why don’t they curate each aisle so you can actually find what you are looking for and possibly discover something new? Brands want to believe that everyone can remember their name but it is not always true. It seems insanely short-sited.

Retail is far from dead. The stats show that people still like to walk into a store and buying something particularly when it comes to grocery. Spending time in the CVS just reminds me why I order from Amazon and that to me yells opportunity to change.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Seine

    Why do I still go to CVS? Because it’s where I still can find deals really worth it with big brands….

  2. Kirsten Lambertsen

    For me, the drugstore is still where (i) I get my prescriptions and (ii) I go for unexpected, last-minute, impulse purchases. I just bought lighter fluid for the BBQ at my Walgreens on Monday, for example. Pretty sure I buy nearly all my gift cards for teachers, postal carriers, sanitation workers, etc. there.It does seem like children’s clothes are getting harder and harder to find in terrestrial retail. Kind of a bummer.

  3. LE

    Why doesn’t CVS put different brands and different products in their stores based on what the product is? They can track the data. They can see what is really selling vs sitting on the shelf.I actually do a great deal of thinking about these type of things at this level. We would totally get along discussing such issues.CVS (or Rite Aid) has a few things going on here actually. It’s hard to say what the mix of the things are though consider the following:a) Stupid people work there. At least at the retail store level and possibly at the corporate level. It must be and is certainly a boring as shit job. The people that work in these jobs are what I call ‘single function machines’. [1]b) They have figured out that it either doesn’t move the needle to do so or they don’t have the logistical bandwidth to manage that for some reason. Macy’s of course is not in (or was not) in the same commodity type business.c) Management and the workforce has aged. This will also happen to startups over time. Priorities and energy changes.I can tell you that I am in somewhat of a fight right now with Whole Foods over this issue. They are doing exactly what you are talking about. They stopped offering fresh cut lox in the seafood case. When they stopped I asked the seafood manager. He said the distribution point didn’t carry it anymore and they were trying to onboard a new vendor who has to ‘pass Whole Foods standards’. That same week I went into another Whole Foods in the same district. In the seafood case was the lox. The manager there said ‘sure it’s in the local point (and confirmed my other store got it’s merchandise from the same place).What did I do? I took it up with the manager. What did he tell me? He said it didn’t sell as well as it did in the other store hence they don’t carry it! This is exactly what you are talking about. Why didn’t the other person tell me that? Either he didn’t know or he didn’t think anyone would actually check. Typically that’s a mistake when dealing with me. I enjoy the battle and getting what I want. It’s practice for when it matters.But that said also keep in mind that Whole Foods has a completely different operating business than a CVS plus as a general rule I would guess that the quality of people working for Whole Foods is a step above a Rite Aid or CVS, right? [1] These employees are waiting for the weekend and say things like ‘what are you doing this weekend!!!’. I know that I have run into a ‘single function machine’ when they ask me ‘what are you doing this weekend’ or ‘do anything good last weekend!’. You know who keeps asking me that question lately? The male teller (in his late 20’s) at the bank. I know he is just trying to be nice. But I have to tell you that none of the high level people that I have ever dealt with ever ask me those questions. (Nor do I ever do that). I hope I have made my point. Does this mean they all are? Of course not but it’s the general composition of the workforce.

  4. AMT Editorial Staff

    Trader Joe’s curates. Big reason we still shop there. Smaller stores. In and then out. Pricing is always fair. Whole Foods has “deals” now. Curated differently than TJs and has brands that will motivate a trip there — Califia Almond Milk, for example. And the salad bar is a winner if looking for a meal. However, if it’s not convenient, we don’t go. We also get produce via a CSA every other week. Just signed up for “Imperfect Produce” — every other week. AND we do a meal delivery service (Gobble before and now Sun Basket) about 1-2x a month. Drug store? For drugs only or emergency need. Our CVS is so jammed with “stuff”, we hate to enter.

    1. angela sum

      trader joe’s is really something.. they are really good with trends and pricing and knowing their customers~

      1. AMT Editorial Staff

        And we always wonder if part of their success is NOT being beholden to a public market.