On a recent visit to San Francisco for a shopper marketing conference, I made a few trips to the Walgreens store in Union Square. The national chain has recently invested several million-dollars in a makeover of the store on the corner of Powell and O’Farrell Streets. This location is in the top five for foot traffic of all of Walgreens' 8,000 stores around the country, with an average of 3,500 customers per day. It now delivers a flagship store experience — one of only 10 in the country — with two stories and 18,000-square-feet of retail space that employs 90 people.
The first floor now includes an “Upmarket” area with a variety of lunch and breakfast foods, like sandwiches and salads, delivered daily from six local vendors. There's even a smoothie station, a bakery and frozen yogurt stand with six flavors and a toppings bar. I hit the smoothie station twice (Recipe: beets, organge, apple, ginger and kale).
The store’s food selection on the ground floor includes higher-end wines as well as gourmet options and even some local favorites like ACME bread. We saw $194 bottles of Dom Perignon and $99 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon. The ground floor also includes an entire isle devoted to Ghirardelli chocolates, as well as a San Francisco souvenir section and an electronics isle with everything from disposable cameras to iPad and iPhone accessories. There was little that you couldn't find.
A quick escalator to the top floor includes reveals a huge beauty and cosmetics section, staffed with trained beauty advisors and more than 2,000 products that range from $10 to over $110 — including the Boots line from Great Britain which Walgreens partially acquired last year.
The pharmacy on the second floor includes a private consultation room for patients and a huge, comfortable waiting area that provides customers wait time estimates and updates on a flat-screen TV.
With 15 registers around the store, service was fast and efficient. As a shopper marketing guy, it's evident to me how a store like this greatly reduces the number of trips a shopper has to make. It provides for three square meals, all my snacks, and of course, any health and beauty needs. This continues the blurring of lines at retail and poses even greater challenges for traditional grocers.
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