ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Ingles Markets here has opened its first in-store pharmacy and plans to have its first gas pumping station up and running this month at the same location, the retailer told SN.
A new Fletcher, N.C. Ingles, which opened July 1, is hosting the new offerings that Brenda Tudor, the chain's vice president of finance, said provide greater customer convenience. "The better experience you provide to the customer, the more loyalty you can build," she said.
In the past, Ingles had several in-store pharmacies that were leased space operations, run by independent owners. Except for one, those have since closed. This is the first pharmacy owned and operated by the 209-unit chain, Tudor said.
The move is due in large part to the chain drug industry's current trend toward freestanding units. Ingles owns 79 shopping centers and often leases spaces in those centers to chains like Eckerd or CVS, Tudor said. "As these [drug retailers] are migrating more to a stand-alone business, instead of being part of a strip center, I think it's opened up an opportunity for us to look at the pharmacy," she explained. "Other times we've leased out a pharmacy in the store but that's been a very rare circumstance."
The 500-square-foot pharmacy in the Fletcher unit has been doing well, Tudor said without giving specifics. "This is a test store; we wanted to try it and see how it is received," she said. "We're pleased at how it's doing so far."
At this point, the retailer has no specific plans to remodel stores and add pharmacies. However, Ingles is looking at future new stores to see if the pharmacy might be a good fit.
Said chairman and chief executive officer Robert Ingle when the company announced results for its fiscal third quarter, which ended June 24, "Our strategy continues to be to provide a modern, convenient one-stop shopping experience to our consumers."
Selling gas also fits into this strategy, according to Tudor, "and it's a way to do some cross marketing between the gas and the grocery store." She could not say exactly when this month the six pumps would be operating.
Building a fuel center is also a good use of existing real estate in Ingles' case, according to Tudor. Because the retailer owns much of its own land, it does not have to go out and lease property.