Picking up prescription medications is an inconvenience to many Americans in their daily lives, and now, it might just become more of a hassle. The Wall Street Journal reports that hundreds of grocery stores across the country are closing their pharmacy counters, a decline that began in 2017 and is continuing to pick up steam.
The WSJ summarizes the multiple reasons for these closures pretty succinctly: “They are too small to wrest competitive reimbursement rates on drugs, they aren’t connected to big medical networks or insurers, and they generally lack walk-in clinics and other health services that draw many customers to CVS and Walgreens locations.” Not only that, but more people than ever are ordering their prescriptions by mail and obtaining 90-day supplies rather than the typical 30-day refills they’d pick up at a grocery store pharmacy.
Some grocery chains, like Kroger, have reason to hang on to their pharmacies. The WSJ explains, “Kroger has said pharmacy shoppers tend to be more loyal, spending three times as much as nonpharmacy customers.” That’s why pharmacies were installed in so many grocery stores in the ’80s and ’90s in the first place: it was a cheap and efficient way of drawing in more shoppers. But with the rise of online prescription fulfillment, fewer stores will have any reason to keep them humming along, and some grocery chains are offering different features to woo customers. What might go into those empty grocery store pharmacy spaces? Will they become a doghouse of sorts for a fleet of shelf-stocking robots?