DRUG STORES URGED TO OFFER PRODUCE

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Drug stores peddling bananas and apples to customers who are on their way to get prescriptions? That idea might have been considered ridiculous by many in the business, but a leading consumer analyst who monitors changing trends suggested that drug stores do just that.The reason: Major supermarkets are going after the pharmacy business in a big way. In addition, he said statistics

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Drug stores peddling bananas and apples to customers who are on their way to get prescriptions? That idea might have been considered ridiculous by many in the business, but a leading consumer analyst who monitors changing trends suggested that drug stores do just that.

The reason: Major supermarkets are going after the pharmacy business in a big way. In addition, he said statistics show the primary food category that draws customers to supermarkets is fresh produce.

Todd Hale, senior vice president of consumer analytics for ACNielsen, Schaumberg, Ill., urged attendees at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Regional Chain Conference here in late January to seriously consider offering fresh fruits and vegetables.

"Grocery retailers lead the way in terms of shopping frequency," Hale said. "The average number of times [a year] a household goes to the drug store is 15, compared to 85 trips to the grocery store. Fresh produce brings consumers into a grocery store every eight or nine days."

"If Kroger is coming after your Rx business," Hale said, "this is an opportunity to take away some of those trips."

In over half of the shopping trips to drug stores, the average shopper only spends $10 or less, according to ACNielsen analysis. Shoppers going to warehouse stores spent an average of $82 per trip, vs. $50 at supercenters and $32 at grocery stores.

Hale suggested they should also increase their advertising support for food. The major drug chains are devoting one to two pages to food in weekly ads. At Rite Aid, one of 12 pages focused on food, and Walgreens, one of 20 pages. He questioned whether they should continue to offer discounts, but instead focus on higher-priced items.

He said the major drug retailers are all using about the same amount of space, 600 to 800 square feet for their food sections, and many use the same name, Food Mart.

Chain and independent drug stores are already attractive to older households and retirees, but they have an opportunity to bring more young female shoppers into their stores more often, he added.

Drug retailers should align their product assortment and merchandising support against key demographic targets.

"This is an opportunity to build channel-shopping frequency and basket rings by catering to younger households and those with kids," he said. "Drug retailers should target the difference in food-category development to build sales among age segments."