Nearly 1,300 retail walk-in clinics are currently operating in the United States, involving 41 retailers. While the majority of growth has been in the drug channel, supermarkets continue to view the segment with interest.
This summer alone, Target opened new outlets in three Chicago-area stores; Giant Eagle brought the concept to a remodeled pharmacy inside a store near Pittsburgh; and Safeway is reportedly making room in dozens of units throughout Southern California that could be up and running by year's end.
“We have learned from our sources that the company could have plans for 100 or more clinics,” said Tom Charland, CEO of Merchant Medicine, a consulting firm in Minneapolis. “Some are nearly completed, and furniture has been ordered.”
Overall growth in the segment continues to be inconsistent, however. In May, Publix Super Markets closed 40 clinics it had in select stores, and expansion plans at other chains have been scaled back. At 13%, supermarkets hold only a small share of the clinic market, compared to the 70% secured by drug stores, according to Merchant Medicine.
Among the primary obstacles to grocery channel growth is the continuing malaise surrounding in-store pharmacies, which have likewise had mixed success in supermarkets compared to stand-alone drug stores. Clinic supporters hope a successful “bundling” model that combines prescription services, education and intervention could spark a new round of investment.