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Online initiatives expand beauty, OTC

BY DSN STAFF

BENTONVILLE, Ark. Amazon.com.—A reputation for low prices and a broad assortment of merchandise enabled Walmart to become a dominant retailer, and now that same strategy is playing out online, where the retailer is intent on overtaking

A series of recent moves—the most significant of which from the perspective of the chain drug industry involved the addition of health-and-wellness products to the online product mix, coupled with increased healthcare content—have Walmart pointed in that direction and talking tough about overtaking the online leader. “Our goal is to make Walmart.com the most visited and valued Web site that exists,” Raul Vasquez, CEO of Walmart.com, told members of the financial community in late October during the retailer’s annual investor conference.

The wide range of products added to the mix in health and beauty and nonprescription drug categories are available for shipment directly to customers’ homes with flat rate pricing of 97 cents. The initiative could help Walmart attract online customers in urban areas who don’t have convenient access to a physical store.

In another move earlier this year, the company created a concept called Marketplace, where it partnered with three other retailers to add more than 1 million items to the online assortment in such categories as home, baby, apparel, toys, sporting goods and sports memorabilia. More partnerships are planned for the coming year, Vasquez said.

“We’re simply trying to provide more products to the customer,” Vasquez said. “In stores, we’re very focused on maximizing the productivity. Online, you don’t necessarily have the same constraints, so you can go about that slightly differently.”

Walmart’s increased online activity comes as Amazon.com is achieving record results, with third-quarter sales that increased 28% to $5.5 billion, and profits that grew at 68% to $199 million. The same day that Amazon.com reported those figures, Walmart was in the midst of its analysts’ meeting, and Vasquez let it be known during his presentation that Walmart.com was outperforming Amazon.com.

“If you talk about just year-to-date, and you take the leading online company—a company that all of you would be familiar with—and you look at what their growth rate has been in North America, year-to-date, we have been able to grow at 190 basis points faster than that company,” Vasquez said. Such cryptic references provide insight into the online growth rate, but the data point is of little value without knowing the size of the base business, a figure Walmart has yet to disclose publicly.

Another interesting piece of information Walmart provides regarding its online business is the strong appeal of its Site-to-Store free shipping service. According to Vasquez, 40% of orders placed online are now picked up in stores. Walmart sees a bright future for the service, as evidenced by the fact that new and remodeled stores now feature a reconfigured customer service area with space at the front of the store designated for Site-to-Store order pickups. Experiments also are under way with drive-through order pick-up capability.

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Hy-Vee names new president

BY Alaric DeArment

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa A 28-year employee of Hy-Vee has become its new president, according to published reports.

The company appointed Randall Edeker as president of the supermarket chain Thursday at the company’s annual meeting, succeeding Ric Jurgens, who had served as president since 2001 and will maintain his position as chairman and CEO.

Edeker had previously served as EVP and COO.

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Tricare expands vaccination coverage to pharmacies, clinics

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK Convenience and value. That’s what community pharmacy and their retail clinic partners deliver to their patients. And that’s what the Department of Defense is counting on in covering immunizations at local pharmacies and identifying convenient care clinics as network providers — two separate pieces of news issued within the past month that really underscore the importance of pharmacies and retail clinics in the delivery of health care today.

Prior to these announcements, military personnel interested in getting their flu shots had to schedule an appointment with their doctor, as Tricare only covered the cost of shots delivered in a doctor’s office.

“As a convenient and accessible healthcare provider, pharmacy is uniquely positioned to offer services for patients, such as vaccinations,” stated Steve Anderson, president and CEO for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Anderson noted that as of earlier this year, pharmacists have the ability to immunize patients in all 50 states. “[This] presents an important opportunity for pharmacists to counsel patients during their visit, and an additional healthcare provider from which to obtain these vaccinations.”

It’s also quite a bit of opportunity for pharmacy — Tricare provides healthcare coverage for 9.5 million eligible beneficiaries. Those beneficiaries pick up almost 2.3 million prescriptions every week, and 1.2 million of those at retail pharmacies, according to Tricare .

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