Walgreens is not ready to kick its cigarette habit
On a trip last month to Walgreens with my eight-year-old, I was asked (paraphrasing here) why the store sold cigarettes when the pharmacist gave people immunizations to keep them from getting sick and sold them medicine if they fell ill.
This branding conundrum has become starker over the past couple of years since CVS ended the sale of tobacco in its stores. While cigarette sales may seem at odds with Walgreens’ “Happy & Healthy” messaging, the apparent discrepancy has not been enough to get the chain to follow the lead set by CVS.
“Our main focus is to try to get people to quit smoking, and we provide a lot of opportunities in stores to do that,” James Skinner, executive chairman of the company, told the Chicago Tribune yesterday at the company’s annual shareholders meeting. “We also provide [products] for consumers who decide they want to smoke.”
In a Sept. 2014 survey on RetailWire, 57 percent of respondents said it was very or somewhat likely that Walgreens and other retailers would ban the sale of cigarettes over the next five years. With less than three years left in that timeline, it seems the 43 percent who said it was somewhat or very unlikely that cigarettes would be banned are likely to be proven correct.
Parent company Walgreens Boots Alliance announced earlier this month that its Retail Pharmacy USA business (Walgreens and Duane Reade) was up 4.2 percent year over year. Comp store sales were up 5.8 percent. The division’s pharmacy sales were up 6.7 percent overall and 9.3 percent on a comp basis.
- Walgreens will keep selling tobacco – Chicago Tribune (tiered sub.)
- Should CVS’ competitors also say bye to tobacco? – RetailWire
- Walgreens Boots Alliance Reports Fiscal 2016 First Quarter Results – Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.
Do you see Walgreens’ cigarettes sales as inconsistent with its branding message? Does Walgreens’ duty to generate returns for its shareholders mean it has to continue selling tobacco products?