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Critical Mass: CVS Hits Jackpot With Vegas Tourists

LAS VEGAS — There are many tourist attractions in Las Vegas ranging from the Shops at Caesars Palace to the water show at The Bellagio. There’s one that might raise some eyebrows — the new CVS on the strip. <br><br>During...

LAS VEGAS — There are many tourist attractions in Las Vegas ranging from the Shops at Caesars Palace to the water show at The Bellagio. There’s one that might raise some eyebrows — the new CVS on the strip.

This story first appeared in the December 20, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

During Thanksgiving weekend, there were almost as many visitors at the two-month-old CVS as there were on the gaming floor at the nearby Monte Carlo Hotel. Whether they had forgotten toothpaste, film or mascara, shoppers were plunking down money at the CVS cash register.

The store’s facade is as much a tourist attention-getter as other attractions along the famed strip. The whimsical decor of the 15,471-square-foot store is hard to miss. A gigantic roll of Kodak film adorns the roof. A huge lipstick is applied to lips on one side of the store. And a plasma screen at the entrance broadcasts product advertisements. Inside, the CVS is also a bit different than a traditional drugstore. Many of the aisles are horizontal to the door. There’s also the use of neon in the beauty department at the rear of the store. Most CVS units have beauty at a side perimeter or near the front. At this store, it is in the back to pull shoppers through the entire store.

The overall look of beauty, however, is in keeping with some elements incorporated at the prototype CVS store in Ridgefield, Conn., such as the use of a soft blue color package in beauty and some lit fixtures.

During a visit on the Friday after Thanksgiving, beauty was one of the busiest departments. One customer from Idaho was looking for a new lipstick to replace one she lost at a casino. Another was killing time while her husband was gambling. She scooped up some items for her grandchild. “I don’t have a CVS near me,” she said. “I’ve never seen a store quite like this.”

The store here appeals to shoppers who might need a last-minute beauty product, rather than stress holiday gifts like CVS stores in other regions this time of year. The James Bond Revlon color promotion, for example, is featured to inspire women to buy a new eye shadow or lipstick. The thought is that most customers aren’t visiting the store for holiday gifts.

There’s ample offerings of nail care, pantyhose and color cosmetics — all items frequently forgotten when people travel. There are two long aisles of space devoted to color promotions or in-and-out items to help spur impulse purchases. There is also a huge assortment of personal care products such as blow dryers and styling tools.

As part of chain efforts to tailor store needs on a market-by-market basis, CVS has wisely added merchandise to this store such as luggage, a huge photo processing lab and souvenirs of Las Vegas. The photo department is three times that of a typical CVS and has multiple photoprocessing machines. There’s even a kiosk in the store where shoppers can buy tickets to Las Vegas’ famed shows —something not offered at any other CVS unit.

The CVS is almost directly across from an existing Walgreens, which also features a mix aimed at tourists. “Take your pick…we got Walgreens on one side and CVS on the other. People used to go to the Walgreens,” a cab driver said. “Now we get more going to the CVS. I think they like the big roll of film.”

Las Vegas has been a good bet for CVS. Plans call for adding as many as eight stores to the five currently running in the market, dubbed the fastest growing metropolitan area in the nation. The city continues to attract more people because of low taxes and affordable housing. The area’s population is approaching 1.5 million, according to U.S. Census figures.

The chain entered Arizona at the same time it ventured into Las Vegas and company officials have predicted a 50 percent jump in demand for prescription drugs in the two markets in the next five years. Las Vegas is currently the 37th largest drugstore market, according to industry trade journals.

Las Vegas has been more resilient to fluctuations in tourism than many other cities in America. Although Las Vegas had seen a 2.3 percent drop in visitors in 2001 after Sept. 11 (the first since 1982), the number of visitors rebounded within six months, according to the Las Vegas Convention Visitors Authority.