Is Walgreens Trying to Do Too Much?
As I listened to Greg Wasson, president and CEO of Walgreens and a 30-year veteran of the company, talk about Walgreens’ countless initiatives last week at Shop.org, I was impressed by all they are taking on. But I found myself thinking back to a book written by BrainTrust panelist Ryan Mathews, called The Myth of Excellence. The primary theme of the book is that companies can’t be great when they try to be great at everything — they must pick one thing to be fantastic at, a couple to excel at, and just make sure they are competent at everything else.
When I think of a few retailers the industry generally considers role models, they do that. Here’s my own select list of retailers who do one or two things super well:
- Walmart – low prices
- Costco – easy stock-up shopping
- Nordstrom – no hassle customer service
- Publix – great grocery shopping experience
- Staples – easy office supply shopping
- Trader Joe’s – funky, fun grocery shopping
- Whole Foods – great natural/organic food
- Target – trendy, cool stuff
We could argue about what each of these retailers stands for all day long, but they each seem to focus on doing one or maybe two things really well. In contrast, Walgreens, which many consider a great retailer, has so many initiatives and goals, it’s impossible to count. Here are some I noted from Mr. Wasson’s presentation:
- Give customers what they want, when and where they want it.
- Be the first choice in health and daily living.
- Provide the best "well experience" via a new flagship format, with departments such as nail bars.
- Partner with Alliance Boots (UK) to provide a global platform and sell Boots items in Walgreens.
- Take advantage of digital innovation such as live chats with pharmacists via mobile apps.
- Reinvent the drug store format.
- Be the #1 provider of immunizations and vaccines.
- Move pharmacists out from behind the counter.
- Co-locate nurse practitioners in some stores.
- Manage 10 apps and five websites.
- Provide web pickup (in 900 stores, so far).
- Manage a Balance Rewards program, which attracted 85 million members in one year.
- Provide prescription refill and transfer by scan, refill reminders, pill reminders, and in-store mapping, all via apps.
- Open many stores 24/7.
Do you think Walgreens is trying to do too much? Will all of its current strategies build toward one overall image? Which initiatives should Walgreens focus its attention on?