Byline: Faye Brookman

NEW YORK — It was a tough time to reenter Manhattan. The grand-opening signs were barely dry on the Walgreens store on Union Square when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred. The store, at Fourth Avenue and 14th Street, was forced to close for a few hours, but has since become a major outlet for many items not always associated with a drugstore, such as surgical face masks, eyewash and memorial candles.
Many visitors to Union Square purchase candles and place them in the park in memory of those killed. A store official also said items such as underwear have been selling to displaced New Yorkers who couldn’t return to homes. And, like all Manhattan drugstores, Walgreens has seen an increased number of people inquiring about Cipro because of the recent Anthrax threat.
The 11,796-square-foot store marks Walgreens’ return into Manhattan, where it once operated a handful of stores, including a site in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Walgreens joins other leading chains who are moving into or expanding in the Big Apple. New York City is the country’s largest drugstore market, with sales exceeding $7 billion annually.
Walgreens also opened a unit a few weeks earlier on Staten Island, bringing the total number of stores in New York to 14, the majority in Queens. The chain, based in Deerfield, Ill., eventually will open a store in the Empire State Building as well.
Although the merchandise mix has been altered by the tragedy, the rest of the store includes traditional Walgreens fare. And, as New Yorkers are told to get back to their regular routine, shoppers have filtered in for cosmetics and other beauty purchases. On a recent trip, for example, several women were picking up a new mascara. Another said she hoped to make herself feel better with a new eye shadow.
Beauty is situated at the front left of the store. The fixture used in this store differs from older Walgreens formats, as the chain experiments with several new cosmetics designs in stores across the country. This store features a granite look, with manufacturer fixtures integrated into Walgreens’ cabinetry. The first foot of display space is dedicated to Kiss nail products. That’s followed by Revlon, L’Oreal, Maybelline, Neutrogena, Max Factor, Almay, Physicians Formula, Cover Girl and NYC New York Color. The store does not feature Olay color cosmetics, which is being phased out by parent Procter & Gamble over the next two years. In general, manufacturers said Walgreens has edited several feet out of its cosmetics department to enhance the department’s productivity. “Many drugstore chains are doing this and giving more space to hair care right now,” said the chairman of a manufacturing company.
In the middle of the peg wall is a cash register and a locked glass case for fragrances. This is a departure for Walgreens, which typically has a counter with a beauty adviser. In this case, the beauty consultant roves around the department and is available for consultation. Customers can also pay for beauty purchases at the separate register.
Some of the beauty products are discounted 20 percent. Promotional beauty products, including items from Blue Cross Beauty Products and Markwins, are highlighted. During a recent visit, the store did not have prestige fragrances. The beauty adviser said there is still inventory to be brought up from storage.
Skin care is across from color cosmetics and features items such as Aveeno, Cetaphil and Sudden Change. The hair care department is well stocked with premium hair products, including Sebastian and Paul Mitchell.
There is also a feature display of hot items such as Crest Whitestrips, Nads hair removal and The Hollywood Diet. This display is near the entrance of the store, the former site of a bank. The point is to show shoppers that Walgreens is quick to hop onto hot new items. The Walgreens unit is brightly lit and very clean, a welcome sight for New Yorkers who complain that they often must make their way through cluttered stores.
Walgreens is among the ranks of the healthiest mass marketers in retailing. Its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings rose 10.7 percent, to $216.9 million, for the most recent quarter ended Aug. 31. Sales for the quarter rose 16.8 percent, to $6.3 billion. The chain operates 3,520 drugstores in 43 states and Puerto Rico. Walgreens has its eye on opening 475 new stores in 2002.