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Bartell Drugs' store base gets bigger, better
April 16th, 2013
SEATTLE – Bartell Drugs aims to open a pair of new locations this year as it continues efforts to enhance the shopping experience at its Seattle-area stores.
Chairman and chief executive officer George Bartell said that in 2013 the drug chain plans to open store No. 59 in Seattle's South Lake Union section by mid-August and, if development proceeds in a timely fashion, store No. 60 in North Bend, Wash., later in the year. Three or four store remodels also are slated for this year.
About a year and a half ago, Bartell Drugs premiered a next-generation store concept, which enhances the shopping environment via attractive lighting, signage and furnishings that spotlight new product areas under banners depicting customers' health, wellness and daily needs, such as the Fresh Beauty cosmetics department, Urban Market and Sweets & Snacks front-end sections, Wellness Courtyard for health-related items, and Creative Print Studio photo department.
Six of the retailer's 58 stores now have at least some elements of the new concept, according to Bartell. "The physical dimensions vary from store to store, so we haven't done the whole treatment in all cases," he said.
The next-gen format made its debut in the fall of 2011 at a new 15,475-square-foot store in Seattle's Roosevelt Square. Bartell noted that the store ushered in an entirely new floor plan.
"It's a departure from the standard grid pattern [in drug stores]. Some of the tables don't go front to back; they go side to side," he explained. "And we've put some unique merchandising fixtures in the store that interrupt the traditional grid pattern flow."
At the Roosevelt Square store the Fresh Beauty section is accented with enhanced signage and soft lighting and features new seating and counters for product sampling, as well as natural and organic product lines. The Urban Market highlights unique and locally produced items — such as Washington state wines plus an assortment of tea, coffee and other products — while the Sweets & Snacks section features new displays and lighting.
Next to the full-service pharmacy is the Wellness Courtyard, which offers vitamins, supplements and healthful beverages.
The Roosevelt Square store, too, houses Bartell’s Creative Print Studio photo department with the Kodak Adaptive Picture Exchange, which provides same-day service for photo prints and enlargements, photo books, calendars, custom greeting cards and other products.
"A lot of the customers like the ambience of the new layout and the look and feel of it," Bartell said.
The 11,600-square-foot South Lake Union store is situated in the headquarters building of Internet retail giant Amazon. It will include a large Urban Market section, a full pharmacy and over-the-counter products, a Sweets & Snacks area, Kodak Photo Kiosks, the Fresh Beauty department and vitamins. The store also will have expanded offerings of organic and locally made products and pet supplies.
"That store is smaller than our prototype, and it's in a unique place," Bartell said. "The population in the area tends to be techie, younger and more male than the average drug store shopper, and less inclined to get prescriptions. But there's definitely a demand for convenience goods in that area. There really aren’t any at the moment. It's a fast-growing area of town."
On the pharmacy side, Bartell Drugs has greatly stepped up its immunization capabilities.
"We had a big expansion in our ability to do inoculations last year," Bartell said. "We've gone to the point where you can now get an immunization anytime without an appointment in any store. We were not that way about nine months ago. That was a huge undertaking.
"We did a lot of flu inoculations this year; we beat our past record by a mile," he added. "We also do additional kinds of immunizations, which is a burgeoning business for us.”
Bartell said his company also is "spending quite a bit of time" investigating how it can participate in accountable care organizations, as well as seeking new ways to spur OTC sales.
“The OTC business is kind of challenged," he said. "We didn't see enough new items last year from the manufacturers, and that was a negative. So we're working hard to figure out how we can do more on the OTC side."