Get a Manicure and Pick a Fine Wine at Walgreens' New Concept Store

WalgreensOn your next trip to the drugstore, what about treating yourself to a manicure to go with that bottle of aspirin? Or maybe take a moment to peruse the variety of highly-rated Malbecs as you're stocking up on shampoo. Walgreens' (WAG) new store concept makes it possible to do just that.

The nation's largest pharmacy chain unveiled a new flagship store Tuesday on Chicago's State Street designed to re-imagine the drugstore shopping experience with "unexpected" products and services, the company says. These include hundreds of fresh food items, such as hand-rolled sushi and sashimi prepared daily, and more than 700 fine wines that are paired with artisan cheeses, specialty meats and chocolates.

The new two-story Walgreens flagship also features the Upmarket Cafe, where baristas prepare fresh brewed premium coffee, as well as a juice bar.

The tony offerings extend to the LOOK beauty department, which includes a Nail Bar offering professional manicures and an Eyebrow Bar where patrons can have their brows expertly shaped and groomed. The beauty department, staffed with trained makeup advisers, also features upscale and niche cosmetics brands atypical of a drug chain.

Jumping on the Upscale Bandwagon

Walgreens, with 7,818 units, is the latest drugstore chain to undergo a makeover designed to prompt shoppers to do a double-take.

CVS (CVS) kicked off the upscale-drugstore trend in 2008 when it launched its Beauty 360 concept, with in-store shops featuring department store brands that previously would have turned their noses up at the idea of being sold in a mass drugstore chain.

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Building on the trend, this summer, Duane Reade, which is owned by Walgreens, unveiled a store at 40 Wall St. in New York City that includes everything from a hair salon to a smoothie bar.

But once the novelty wears off, will consumers really want to buy wine at Walgreens? Karen Grant, vice president and senior global industry analyst for The NPD Group, the market research firm, thinks so.

That's because in recent years, consumers have become channel agnostic, she tells DailyFinance.

"What we're seeing is the consumer has become less and less concerned about where she gets anything," and retailers ranging from Target (TGT) and Costco (COST) to H&M have paved the way, Grant says.

Cheap-chic discounter Target has wooed shoppers with its exclusive lines from upscale designers such as Missoni. Meanwhile, warehouse club Costco has hawked many a Prada bag just feet away from super-sized jars of mayonnaise.

"We're seeing an evolution in the distribution of products, and a new education of the consumer," Grant says. "If [a retailer] starts enticing her with other products, she'll start looking at [them] through a different lens ... Shoppers are willing to try and experiment with new [shopping] environments."

But the devil is in the details, Grant says. "It has to be well done. Execution matters."

The Ones to Watch: These Stores Could Become Household Names
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Get a Manicure and Pick a Fine Wine at Walgreens' New Concept Store

Japanese retailer Uniqlo has set out to make utilitarian clothing -- with features like milk protein softening fibers -- cool, whether you're 16 or 60.

Uniqlo's concept is sort of like an Apple Store (AAPL) for fashion; it showcases affordable apparel in a modernist setting, with items like $12.90 camisoles featuring Heattech, its exclusive heat-retaining and moisture-resistant technology.

Showcasing high-performance, stylish clothing in a sleek setting is how Uniqlo hopes to "revolutionize" mass retailing in the U.S., Shin Odake, CEO of Uniqlo USA, told DailyFinance during a tour of its new 64,000-square foot outlet in New York City.

"Think American Apparel, but done a little better." That describes Joe Fresh, according to Craig Johnson, CEO of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners. The Canadian retailer is expanding in the U.S., and is on a mission to "solve the family's fashion needs," with an affordable range of "accessible, of the moment style," for women, men and children, as well as beauty products, says the Joe Fresh Facebook page.

Adds Joe Feldman, managing director of retail consultancy Telsey Advisory Group: "Joe Fresh is the new kid on the block in the fast-fashion space. It has a clean look and attractive pricing."

Watch out H&M, Mango and Zara: The British are coming. U.K. retailer Topshop is quietly making a mark on the U.S. retail scene, bringing its twist on fast-fashion to the States.

The retailer is "an upscale -- but not luxury -- fashion-driven business which imports tremendous fashion and shoe merchandise from the U.K.," Gilbert Harrison, founder and chairman of Financo, the boutique investment firm, tells DailyFinance. Now the chain is expanding in the U.S. and Canada.

The retailer opened in-store boutiques in 14 of Nordstrom's department stores in September.

But while Topshop's merchandise is edgy in the fast-fashion tradition, "It appeals to a broader swath of customers than either Zara or Mango, and is a little higher priced, but better quality, than H&M," for example, Johnson says.

GAP) might be struggling, but it's online division Piperlime has been a bright spot for the retailer.

Unlike the mother chain that sells clothing exclusively under the Gap brand, Piperlime features apparel, shoes, handbags and accessories from a host of fashion brands, ranging from 7 For All Mankind and Calvin Klein, to Anne Klein, BCBG, Badgley Mischka and Kenneth Cole to Naturalizer and Nine West.

Piperlime also plays the role of your personal stylist. The site features guest editors like stylist Rachel Zoe, who dispense fashion advice and offer their picks of hot trends and products available on the site.

The retailer expanded with the addition of men's clothing this fall.

Glenn Murphy, Gap's CEO, has said the retailer is a growth vehicle for the chain. And there are whispers that Gap might open Piperlime stores.

Charming Charlie sells affordably priced earrings, necklaces, bracelets, handbags, scarves and belts for women of all ages in a variety of looks, from vintage, modern, glamorous and global fare to bohemian and punk rocker-inspired styles. Named "hot retailer of the year" by the International Council of Shopping Centers in 2010, it's reminiscent of Claire's, the teen accessories chain, but for a broader audience, Johnson says. And it's "very hot and expanding right now."

Chris Burch opened his first C. Wonder store in New York City's trendy Soho neighborhood this year, selling upscale clothing, jewelry, handbags, accessories and home decor "at astonishing values," according the retailer's web site.

C. Wonder, which is now expanding to mall locations, features classically designed fashion and accessories in some unexpected colors, like chartreuse and ecru. Merchandise is showcased in a store designed to delight the senses, featuring ever-changing floor and window displays.

While C. Wonder "may look a bit like Tory Burch, only with a green versus orange motif, [but it's] more than a bit less expensive," Johnson says.


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