We are getting older every day and we need more pills, powders, and ointments to ease our aching joints and help us sleep at night. And we should avoid stress on our aging knees by picking up our prescriptions at a drive-through window. At least that is what the chain drugstores are counting on.
And in 2003 chain drugstores will be on the move, expanding into new markets with larger and larger stores -- according to the web pages and recent annual reports of several large drugstore chains.
Companies are focusing on new high-growth markets including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Diego, Minneapolis, St. Louis. The Sunbelt is an expansion favorite, with Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and the Carolinas as prime targets. Most of the new or updated stores will be least 10,000 square feet with lots of parking spaces and travel lanes for drive-through customers.
Forum News last reported on the threats to communities posed by chain drugstores in March/April 2002, and since then plans for new stores and new markets do not show any signs of slowing down. Let’s look at few statistics:
- CVS strategy for expansion is focused on new high-growth markets. Of the top 100 drugstore markets in the United States, it now operates in 60 and has long-term plans to expand into other markets with hundreds of additional stores. In 2001, it opened 43 stores in new markets: 17 in Chicago, 17 in Florida, 6 in Texas, and 3 in Las Vegas. According to its 2001 annual report the company’s long-term goal is to have 70-80 percent of their stores in freestanding/ convenient locations with drive-through pharmacies.
- Eckerd Corporation, a subsidiary of J.C. Penney, has plans to reconfigure or remodel its stores. It will convert, relocate, or open an additional 800 stores per year. By the end of 2003, 80 percent of stores will be updated and operated in its new store layout.
Walgreens opened 470 new stores in fiscal 2002— which translates to a new store approximately every 18 hours. In 2003, Walgreens plans to open more than 450 new stores. According to the company’s 2001 annual report, the goal is to operate 6,000 stores by 2010. The company’s strategy is to enter new markets and “dense up” existing markets.
There is no denying that a pharmacy drive-through window is convenient at 8:00 p.m. when picking up a prescription for a cranky toddler with an ear infection. But these stores don’t have to come at the expense of losing historic buildings on Main Street or acres of open countryside paved over for a suburban-style big-box building.
As stores continue to expand into previously untapped markets, preservationists should be vigilant and make sure that local protections are securely in place. The best chance for saving a community’s historic places is to protect them at the local level, particularly through the use of preservation ordinances, design review, and strong zoning provisions. Other keys to success include getting involved early and creating solid partnerships to voice opposition to inappropriate development.
Information was compiled by Cristina Prochilo, program officer with the National Trust’s Northeast Office and the national liaison for the Trust’s Drugstore Initiative.
Publication Date: January/February 2003