NEW YORK — Supermarkets have up until now dabbled with retail health clinics in their stores with Kroger  and Safeway  making an effort with clinics in the grocery environment. With clinic growth projected to continue in drug chains and mass merchandisers, supermarkets might be expected to ramp up their wellness services by adding more clinics, say some industry observers.
“Drug stores and mass merchandisers have done better with clinics than food stores,” said Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information here. The health care research company recently released its third study of the retail health clinic market titled: “Retail Clinics 2011: Market Assessment, Supplier Sales, Key Players and Trends.”
Retail or convenience clinics are designed to offer a low-cost and time-saving alternative to patients with routine health matters.
After more than a decade of development, Kalorama says retail health clinics are still in an early stage of growth. Clinic sales were estimated at $733.4 million in 2010, an increase of 81% per year from 2005. Kalorama projects sales to rise by 19.3% per year to reach $1.7 billion by 2015.
Of the 1,344 retail clinics open in 2010, 1,084 were in drug stores, representing about 81% of the clinics, Kalorama reports. About 60 of those clinics were located in supermarkets.
“Safeway and Kroger seem to be doing the best utilizing retail clinics. We estimate they brought about $10 million additional revenue to the supermarkets that have utilized them. It would be fair to say that as the concept becomes more routine in drug stores and other places, you will see them increasingly in food stores,” Carlson said.
The report found that the major drug store-based clinics, Walgreens' Take Care Health and CVS' Minute Clinic, were responsible for 62% of retail clinic sales.
Jim Wisner, president of Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill., said drug chains have simply done a better job in promoting their health clinic offering. He noted that Walgreens has been very aggressive at leveraged events like the H1N1 swine flu by dispensing vaccines.
He also noted that nothing precludes supermarkets from hosting clinics.
“I would argue supermarkets are better locations [than drug or mass] because within the four walls of the supermarket you have everything you need to manage your health. Diet and nutrition and all the rest are an integral part of so many different health conditions. Supermarkets are better equipped to bring all components of your personal health management together in one place where you can practically execute it in the products you buy,” Wisner said.
Jon Hauptman, a partner in consulting firm Willard Bishop LLC, Barrington, Ill., sees an opportunity for retailers to more profitably use newly found extra space in large stores due to tighter inventory management controls.
“I would see an opportunity for health clinics in stores to take advantage of this emerging trend of retailers critically analyzing the space efficiency of their current stores, which is causing them to build stores which are somewhat smaller.”
Carlson believes over time grocery retailers will add retail clinics. “One could argue you are simply reinforcing that message of a wellness connection to food and that your supermarket is more than just the place to acquire food items.”