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Walgreens’ Luke Rauch on Creating a Seamless Shopper Experience

Walgreens is fashioning itself a one-stop-shop for the beauty, health and wellness needs of its shoppers.

In both his personal and professional life, Luke Rauch, senior vice president and chief merchandising officer of Walgreens, is all about maximizing convenience. 

So said the executive at WWD’s Wellness Forum as he detailed how Walgreens is amping up the breadth of the company’s service and product offerings in accordance with shifting consumer lifestyles. 

“Our vision is to be the leading partner of reimagining local health care and well-being for all,” said Rauch, highlighting the company’s ongoing initiatives, such as its partnership with VillageMD, through which full-service primary care practices will be added to 1,000 Walgreens stores across the U.S. by 2027. 

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Rauch also said Walgreens seeks to delve into mental health services, an offering he believes will decrease many of the pain points consumers often encounter when trying to access such services. 

“Things like mental well-being and counseling, or tests you might have had to go to your physician to get previously, you can now get at Walgreens. It is a shorter drive, a more manageable parking lot and a lot easier to execute than going to your primary care physician,” Rauch said, noting that over 75 percent of Americans live within five miles of a Walgreens store, which makes such offerings even more of a no-brainer to him. 

“The dream is to operate in communities and improve the total cost of care for patients and make their lives more affordable,” he said.  

While Rauch said the company is exploring additional checkout options such as self-checkout and even a potential scan-as-you-shop method through which in-store shoppers can check out directly from their phones, it is taking a thoughtful and steady approach to any such implementations. 

“The challenge that you have with self-checkout is when not done right it can actually create a sub-optimal customer experience,” Rauch said, adding that for certain stores — such as those with high volumes of alcohol sales — self-checkout can potentially be more of a hindrance than it would be beneficial. 

Walgreens, which initially introduced curbside pickup in the early 2010s only to withdraw the offering shortly thereafter, knows firsthand how important good timing is in ensuring the success of any such rollouts.  

“We were too far ahead of the curve,” said Rauch of the company’s first attempt at curbside pickup, which it recommenced in 2020, just as many other retailers were introducing the offering for the first time. “We didn’t have the patience to let that business grow and mature, so we pulled it. Part of this, too, is once we make the right moves, having the right conviction to let it play out.”

Walgreens’ same-day delivery service is among the key offerings the company seeks to emphasize moving forward, with Rauch stating that due to Walgreens’ high penetration and highly curated selection, it is able to execute deliveries significantly faster than competing retailers. 

“We’re a small store,” Rauch said. “We’re never going to be able to have the breadth of assortment that a Saks or a Bloomingdale’s is going to be able to offer, but we know what sells within the communities within which we operate.”

“The lines between what was traditionally considered health and what is now wellness and what is beauty are blurring,” concluded Rauch, stating that Walgreens is taking a multidimensional approach to setting itself — and its shoppers — up for success in all three areas.