CHICAGO — Walgreens’ new Casual Gear basic apparel line has been in stores barely a month now, but already geospatial geniuses are mapping ways to make it move.

This story first appeared in the May 5, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The $53 billion drugstore chain is a longtime user of geographic information systems, which marry map information, such as locations of streets, bridges, parks and public transportation, with proprietary business data such as market share, demographics and household income.

During an industry conference last week at Chicago’s Drake Hotel, Walgreens director of GIS and health care Dave Miller outlined how GIS data analysis guides decision-making in a number of operational areas, from real estate (choosing optimum sites for new stores) to human resources (gauging the sales impact of relocating a pharmacist who has a highly loyal customer following).

The software Walgreens uses, from ESRI of Redlands, Calif., permits the chain to analyze data in a highly local fashion, said Miller, and now that can be applied to evaluating apparel demand.

“This allows us to look at how the market share dynamic is changing by [city] block,” he said, showing street maps overlaid with business metrics for Chicago neighborhoods surrounding Wrigley Field, where the Cubs play. “This gives our analysts a clear picture of the surface area of our stores and not just a one-dimensional polygon.” More than 200 Walgreens employees have GIS software on their desktops.

Asked if the software would play a role in advancing Walgreens’ new apparel initiative, Miller said analysts are already working on it. He said the technology can help identify which stores might be good candidates for an expanded apparel assortment based on proximity to “generators of business” such as schools, hospitals and tourist and shopping hot spots.

Launched early this month, Walgreens’ Casual Apparel collection is produced by San-Francisco-based Wonderbrand LLC, which was formed by Nick Graham, founder of Joe Boxer. The line consists of T-shirts, hoodies, quilted vests, yoga pants, socks and wristwatches. Price points top out at $14.99. Rollout to all 6,200 stores, including those in Puerto Rico, is nearly complete, a Walgreens spokeswoman said.