CVS Health to close hundreds of drugstores

CVS Health will close hundreds of drugstores over the next three years, as the retail giant adjusts to changing customer needs and converts to new store formats.

The company said Thursday that it will close about 300 stores a year for the next three years, nearly a tenth of its roughly 10,000 retail locations as it reduces store count density in some places.

CVS said it has been evaluating population changes, customer buying patterns and future health needs to “ensure it has the right kinds of stores in the right locations.”

No details about where the closing will occur were released by CVS Thursday.

The explosive growth of online shopping has blunted the need for customers to shop at the thousands of locations run by drugstore chains like CVS and Walgreens. That trend worsened at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with so many customers hunkered down at home.

The company also has some overlapping stores, but GlobalData Managing Director Neil Saunders sees another big factor behind the shift announced Thursday.

Saunders believes CVS has neglected its retail business and pushed some of its locations “into the downward spiral of irrelevance.”

“Too many stores are stuck in the past with bad lighting, depressing interiors, messy merchandising, and a weak assortment of products,” Saunders said in an email. “They are not destinations or places where people go out of anything other than necessity.”

Drugstores have been redesigning their locations as they try to become known as more than just places to pick up prescriptions and cough syrup. They have become a key source of COVID-19 vaccines as well as annual flu shots.

They also are expanding the health care services they provide.

Aside from operating drugstores, CVS Health also sells health insurance and runs prescription drug plans for big clients like insurers and employers.

CVS Health said Thursday its stores will be grouped into three models.

Some will be traditional pharmacies that offer retail products as well as some health care services. Others will be dedicated to customer primary care, and the company will break out an enhanced version of its “HealthHUB” locations.

The company started introducing those stores a few years ago. They include health care workers like dietitians, community rooms for things like yoga classes, and the stores are geared toward helping customers monitor chronic conditions like diabetes and stay on top of their health.

CVS Health said Thursday that it expects to take an impairment charge of between $1 billion and $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter for the closures. That charge won’t affect the company’s earnings forecast.

Shares of Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS Health Corp. rose 2%, to $94.66 each, Thursday while broader trading indexes dipped.

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8 thoughts on “CVS Health to close hundreds of drugstores

  1. If CVS lowered its prices on things that aren’t drugs, people would actually shop there. Why in the world would I buy anything at CVS when I know it costs 5%-20% more than a similar (and likely better) product sold at a grocery store?

  2. “Too many stores are stuck in the past with bad lighting, depressing interiors, messy merchandising, and a weak assortment of products,” Saunders said in an email. “They are not destinations or places where people go out of anything other than necessity.”

    Has this not always been true? Bad selection with even worse prices. The only thing convenience stores have going for them is location convenience. If they axe locations and the remaining stores are harder to get to for many people, won’t they just lose customers to bigger stores with better prices and selection?

    1. No worries. There will likely be a Walgreen’s store very nearby to serve those neighbors.

      The WSJ published a long feature a couple years ago about the coming contraction in brick and mortar drugstore retail.

  3. Even the pharmacies can’t find enough employees to stay open. The lines at the drive-through are around the block most times when I go in to pick something up for one of my parents. My insurance plan requires me to get most things via mail order, and have for years, so I seldom use retail pharmacies. I wonder how much this has taken business away.

  4. “HealthHUB” locations. The company started introducing those stores a few years ago. They include health care workers like dietitians, community rooms for things like yoga classes, and the stores are geared toward helping customers monitor chronic conditions like diabetes and stay on top of their health.” Sounds like a bad idea to me

  5. I think CVS and Walgreens went on an overbuilding spree and if one built on a corner the other one decided somebody thought this was a good spot for a drug store and built across the street.

  6. The parking lot at the CVS at the Bridges is always full. Shoppers are buying like crazy in the affluent areas despite the prices. The stores in the poor areas will be shut first. I see people buy things all the time without looking at prices.

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