Walgreens’ Democratic View on Beauty

Creating accessibility to beauty products is a mission of Joe Magnacca, president, daily living products and solutions at the company.

Joe Magnacca

Creating accessibility to beauty products is a mission of Joe Magnacca, president, daily living products and solutions at Walgreens. In just a short time, he’s helped transform Duane Reade stores in New York, while also influencing a new attitude at Walgreens — moving it away from the image as “your grandmother’s store.”

This story first appeared in the June 1, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

By capturing the cachet found in European and Canadian pharmacies, such as Shoppers Drug Mart’s Beauty Boutiques, Magnacca and his team are rewriting the mass-market beauty rules. First seen in Duane Reade’s Look Boutiques, the concept has evolved in two years to include services such as manicures. Today, there are 40 Look Boutiques, including the newly opened store in Puerto Rico that was already the second-largest door in terms of sales for Mother’s Day — the manicure area quickly had to be enlarged from four manicure tables to six. Magnacca said there will be “several hundred” Look Boutiques over the next few years.

“We are very committed to beauty. We felt it was important to bring beauty to her. We believe that she wants to shop where she wants to shop, when she wants to shop, how she wants to shop, and that theme obviously holds even truer today when we talk about online and the online experience,” he said. “We have six million customers a day. And we want to give them more reasons to shop our store. Yes, I need to pick up my script, yes, I need sushi, yes, I need to go to the beauty area for my products, including services.”

One-on-one consultation is important to Magnacca, and he said Walgreens is working to better train the more than 26,000 beauty advisers in the network, with strategies such as a beauty university.

The merging of Duane Reade and Walgreens [Walgreens purchased Duane Reade two years ago] resulted in a stronger chain benefiting from each other’s strengths — Walgreens from Duane Reade’s front-end power, and Duane Reade from Walgreens’ rich pharmacy operation. Beauty is a category Walgreens wants to own. “What we are trying to [do is] create an experiential shopping environment. Where else can you go and pick up sushi, get a men’s haircut at Wall Street, have your scalp analyzed and get your nails done?”

Magnacca wants to leverage technology, including the use of systems such as EZface in stores and a new computerized system for booking manicures. He’s also pleased with the progress of Drugstore.com and Beauty.com, which Walgreens acquired two years ago. “Beauty.com was incredibly strategic for our overall platform,” he said, adding that a new look to the Web site is forthcoming. “We really want to serve everyone across all channels. Again, what she wants, when she wants it and where she wants it. And we really don’t care if she walks into a store, if she orders online, picks up in a store, comes into a store and orders online. We just care that she is satisfied with her order, because it really is her world, not ours. Our job is to serve her the best way we can, and the best way may be very different at different times for her.”

Walgreens focuses on the right mix in the right store rather than a cookie-cutter approach. He admitted it is hard work — more customization, market tests and layers of planograms — but a strategy that pays off. He said, “We make sure that every [stockkeeping unit] is optimized on a per-door basis, as opposed to on a national scale. And that is a really big change for the Walgreens organization.”