At the Rite Aid store in the Newberry Pointe shopping center in Newberry Township, York County, the outside of the building looks mostly the same although there are some changes and the new logo appears on the facility. But, shoppers who enter the store will notice big changes.
This week, East Pennsboro Township-based Rite Aid introduced the first two pilot stores of what the company is calling “the store of the future” which is part of a $700 million store overhaul the drugstore chain announced in March. The investment is part of its new corporate strategy known as the “Rx Revolution” which it said will not only change what the stores look like but how they operate and what they sell.
The store in Newberry Township and another store in New Hampshire opened under the new model on Sunday and the company held a grand opening on Tuesday. The stores continued to operate during the remodel.
Shoppers entering the well lit store in Newberry Township will be able to view the store from front to back because the gondolas in the middle of store have been lowered so that shoppers can see all the way back to the pharmacy.
“If you came in the store before the remodel you would think it was a lot smaller,” Erik Keptner, chief merchandising and marketing officer said. “What we did was actually lower the gondola heights in the middle of the score to enable the customer to basically see everything in the store and what it does is really opens it up.”
The lighting of the remodeled store stands out. The store has a lot more light including natural light.
“We took a lot of stuff off the windows,” Keptner said. “There were signs on the windows. There were actual displays that covered the windows. There wasn’t a lot of natural light coming in.”
And there is spotlight lighting in the middle of the store.
“There has been a lot of lighting enhancements that have been employed in this prototype to bring just a higher level of lighting across the store but also to bring feature lighting in,” Keptner said.
And many of the store’s newer items are prominently featured.
On Tuesday, PennLive took a tour of the newly remodeled store in Newberry Township.
Rite Aid’s product overhaul
The company says its target audience with its new offerings is women ages 25 to 49.
Rite Aid has overhauled its product selection. All the stores will soon see new items in its stores with a focus on more health focused items. There will be less electronics and less stationery. But there will be expanded offerings of beauty and health items, sleep medicine and pet food. Rite Aid will continue to offer GNC products.
And Rite Aid now carries CBD items. Rite Aid first rolled out CBD items last year in two states but is now expanding the offering to 10 more stores. CBD items have been placed close to the pharmacy in case customers have questions.
In some cases the company has reduced categories are eliminated categories when the products either took up more time, space and attention than it deserved based on sales but the company has also eliminated items that don’t mesh in with the company’s new philosophy of what it is trying to do around health.
There won’t be any tobacco products included in the “store of the future”. Rite Aid hasn’t sold e-cigarettes and vaping products for more than a year.
“We were the first drugstore chain to go to 21 (years of age requirement) on tobacco as well as remove all e-cigarettes and vaping products from the product line and we never sold flavored e-cigarettes or vaping products,” Chris Savarese, director of public relations said.
Keptner said that snack offering is also a big category for Rite Aid and the company has brought in more healthier items.
“This is a very different feel and look to just walking down the chip aisle in a normal supermarket,” he said.
Keptner says that there is a big push to bring in items with more natural ingredients whether it is beauty items, food items or supplements.
The pharmacy in the store in Newberry Township has a more modern open look and the pharmacist now has a more central work area in the pharmacy. Rite Aid says the new approach will allow the pharmacist to be more approachable. And extra technicians will now handle some of the duties that the pharmacist had handled that it didn’t necessarily have to freeing up time for the pharmacist to answer questions.
The new store also has a consultation room and a virtual room in the back of the facility near the pharmacy where someone with a medical problem can see a doctor virtually. Based on the symptoms and the needs, a customer can see a virtual physician from an outside company that rite Aid partners with. Customers can also receive diagnostic testing like an ear check. For instance if someone has a dog bite the pharmacist can recommend a virtual appointment with a doctor.
One of the biggest changes that shoppers will notice right away is the beauty products section, which is showcased at the front of store near the cashier in a prominent area and is brightly lit.
Rite Aid has taken the cosmetics from wall on the side to a more prominent location in the store. Keptner, calls the beauty section a highlight of its new concept.
“We’ve developed a whole new beauty experience,” he said. “We’ve created this discovery zone that really attracts the customer in to learn about new products or new regimens.”
Rite Aid has not only brought in a number of new beauty product brands but, the company will employ “beauty ambassadors” to help customers.
“The beauty ambassador engages the customers – – talks about beauty related topics that the customers may have questions on, introduces them to new brands,” Keptner said.
Eventually Rite Aid hopes to add beauty services but, due to COVID-19 is unable to at the moment.
Rite Aid is stepping it up when it comes to seasonal items, which it says is important to customers and sets the tone for the store.
The store has a much more central place for seasonal items, which are in view of cards, gift wrap, seasonal candy and other items. The store is bringing the seasonal items from the gondolas into a featured area and allows customers to see how items will look in their own house.
On Tuesday, the store had a plethora of Halloween related items.
Rite Aid has carried pets supplies but it is expanding its offering, and is now selling Wild Harvest and Blue Buffalo dog food.
And something new to Rite Aid, is it is now offering pet medications.
Just the beginning
Rite Aid plans to open seven more pilot stores over the next few months. Rite Aid will then focus on stores in Boise, Idaho and Viginia Beach, Virginia. And all of the stores are expected to make changes to the exterior of its stores and incorporate new signage. And new merchandise is currently flowing into all Rite Aid stores.
Keptner points out that the rebranding is more than just a logo. He said that new plan will change how Rite Aid stores operate and what they sell.
“This rebrand that we’re doing not just in this store but across the fleet, it’s not just the logo change, it’s not just an aesthetic,” he said. “We’re changing work processes for our people so we’re trying to move some of the shelf spacing activities off of peak customers hours so that our associates can better serve the customer. We are elevating our level of play in terms of performance management and expecting more out of ourselves as Rite Aid in terms of delivering a great impression from a service standpoint.”
You can follow Daniel Urie on twitter @DanielUrie2018 and you can like PennLive’s business page on Facebook at @PennLiveBusiness