Wellness 2.0: How Albertsons, CVS And Eileen Fisher Are Ushering In The Next Phase Of Health-Focused Retailing

Wellness 2.0: How Albertsons, CVS And Eileen Fisher Are Ushering In The Next Phase Of Health-Focused Retailing
Food & Beverage

Merchants from the supermarket giant, drugstore chain and fashion retailer discuss a new generation of ‘holistic,’ ‘self-care’-geared products and services that speak to consumers’ evolving demands

Barbara Thau
  • 19 september 2018

Staff dieticians, spirituality seminars and aromatherapy sleep balm—sounds like the program at a wellness retreat? Indeed. But that’s also what Alberstons supermarkets, Eileen Fisher shops and CVS drugstores are serving up these days.

Amid everyday consumers’ unabating healthy-living awakening, retailers and brands are upping the ante with the next generation of wellness fare, delivering merchandise and shopper education that reflects an increasingly holistic mind-body-soul take on the movement.

Retailers are starting to service consumers’ broader health-and-wellness needs as a means of survival, Kathy Gersch, executive vice president of change-management firm Kotter, told PSFK. “As the Amazons of the world reduce barriers to access to products, for consumers, it’s going to increasingly be about, ‘how do I get access to service and information?’ particularly when it comes it health and wellness, where people want to trust the information they’re getting.”


Buried by the virtual mounds of data available online, shoppers increasingly value curated—and vetted—guidance on their purchases, from their vitamin supplements to beauty regimen, she said.

Merchants’ heal-thy-consumer stance marks a bid to stake a claim as consumers’ trusted wellness partner, and is one expression of the retail-as-a-service model that’s redefining notions of what it means to be a merchant today.

CVS: From ‘Sick-Care To Self-Care’

CVS showcased that shift in a pivot from “sick-care” to “self-care” products and the expansion of “better for you” food options in a mock store it bowed last year in New York City. The store signaled the retailer’s overarching goal to transform into something akin to the Whole Foods of the drugstore sector.

Since then, CVS has been working to be the “champion” for customers and pharmacy patients with the rollout of the health-focused store design to select locations, including new signage “that mirrors customers’ decision making process, and simplifies the shopping process, increases education on shelf, and offers a supportive tone of voice to help guide them towards what might help achieve their [health] goals or address their conditions,” Judy Sansone, senior vice president and chief merchant for CVS Pharmacy, told PSFK.

To that end, CVS has shifted from emphasizing “expected” products like ZZzQuil to induce sleep, for one, to “unexpected” solutions such as natural supplements, sleep-tracking devices and even aromatherapy, as consumers themselves make the mental shift from sick care to self care. As consumers continue to look for ways to be proactive with their health, “it’s critical that CVS’ strategies align with that trend,” she said.

“To help them achieve that goal, CVS has introduced new offerings into the product mix that range from connected health products and holistic health solutions, to new dye-free over-the-counter medications, digestive health solutions including fermented supplements and probiotics, and expanded organic and natural brands previously found only in specialty stores,” such as Nutiva’s organics, Sansone said.

New assortments tied to emerging areas like connected health, active, nutrition and sleep aids come to life in “discovery zones” that feature holistic solutions via educational displays that are designed to take the guesswork out of shopping for better-for-you goods.

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In their guided curation of specialty-health fare, the Zones reflect a disruptive approach to wellness that’s atypical of a mass drugstore chain, as unexpected products provide discovery opportunities for shoppers, CVS says.

In a nod to consumers’ growing reliance on technology as a life-management tool, the wellness zones also includes digital devices to help shoppers understand their health “from the inside out, many times by connecting tools to mobile phone apps,” like diagnostic scales, wireless thermometers and digital trackers, said Erin Pensa, senior director of retail communications for CVS Pharmacy, told PSFK.

The wellness push is a strategic one for CVS, as the market for preventive, health-and-wellness “self-care” products is growing three times faster than over-the-counter “sick care” items, executives said.

Meanwhile, CVS has upped its mix of healthier food options with the addition of 400 organic products and over 1,000 natural items, like Gold Emblem Abound Organic apple Cider Vinegar and CVS Health Organic Men’s Daily Multivitamin Gummies, which now account for 50% of its assortment in most stores.

All told, the changes are resonating with CVS shoppers, Sansone said. That’s prompted the drugstore chain to boost the rollout of “even more innovative products and services by listening to customers and identifying solutions they need to make managing their health easier than ever before.”

Albertsons: Dietitian-Led Workshops In The Grocery Aisles

Albertsons, which operates its namesake groceries and supermarkets under 20 banners such as Safeway and Vons, is steering the business so that its stores are an authentic extension of its pharmacy arm to become a “true health-and-wellness destination for the communities we serve,” Mark Panzer, senior vice president of pharmacy health and wellness, told PSFK.

Just as the retailer is reinventing the pharmacy department by opening health clinics in more than 250 locations, Albertsons’ health-and-wellness push is increasingly moving from the pharmacy counter to the store aisles—literally.

In 2017, Albertsons launched Answers in the Aisles, an overarching wellness program whereby registered dietitians lead store tours, classes and nutrition workshops such as kids’ cooking classes, and seminars like, “Eating Healthy With Diabetes,” and “Healthy Ageing,” which are promoted in-store, on social media and via a patchwork of partners that includes insurance providers, hospitals and community organizations.

The interactive programs, now also available to Spanish-speaking consumers, helps shoppers with everything from reading nutrition labels to meal planning to demystifying the plethora of options in the grocery aisle and provide expert guidance on healthy-living choices.

It’s what Albertsons’ shoppers asked for, Panzer says. “All of our expanded pharmacy offerings and services are designed to appeal to our customers’ need for convenience and reliable, accessible health-and wellness-services,” he said. “This applies to everything in retail: grocery, pharmacy and health and beauty products.”

Eileen Fisher: Selling ‘Purpose’ From The Outside In

Apparel merchant Eileen Fisher has been a pioneer in sustainable fashion and ethical retailing since its founding in 1984. But it’s now amplifying its mission to help shoppers find their purpose from the outside in—from clothes that echo their values to workshops designed to sooth and enrich their internal lives.

That vision, girded by a company goal to reach maximum sustainability by 2020, is embodied in Making Space, a new experiential test store in the Boreum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, where an expanded mix of Eileen Fisher’s Renew and Remade recycled clothing collections takes the spotlight, alongside a rotating roster of like-minded artists in residences selling one-of-a-kind garments.

A key feature of Making Space is the store’s lower level, which will hold Eileen Fisher’s signature LifeWork guest lectures and panel discussions, like “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” and “Food as Medicine.”

“We’re selling things other than clothes, we’re selling our values,” Rebecca Perrin, chief creative officer of Eileen Fisher, told PSFK during a walk through of the store in August. “We have a triple bottom line of people, profit and the environment.”

Staff dieticians, spirituality seminars and aromatherapy sleep balm—sounds like the program at a wellness retreat? Indeed. But that’s also what Alberstons supermarkets, Eileen Fisher shops and CVS drugstores are serving up these days.

+food & beverage
+merchandising & curation
+packaging & product engagement
+post purchase & service
+Shopper education & assistance
+store experience & design

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