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


On 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."