CVS Reigns Supreme while Rite Aid Lags Behind

Pharmacies have become essential to a modern, healthy life, but it’s hard to say who the definitive category leader is. CVS has led the news cycle thanks to ongoing conversations regarding its potential acquisition of healthcare leader Aetna; meanwhile Rite Aid’s own deal with Albertson’s fell flat (although anyone who stops in to receive a flu shot will leave with free ice cream). To understand where consumers are shopping for everything from shampoo to soap, we conducted a study that tracked foot traffic patterns at CVS, Duane Reade, Rite Aid, and Walgreens locations across the country over a two-week period.

During the morning hours of 7am – 10am, CVS– –had a solid lead in foot traffic, which was 117% higher in total than Rite Aid. Walgreens dominated the evening hours (between 6pm – 9pm), nearly doubling its AM foot traffic and generating almost as much additional traffic over Rite Aid as CVS.

Interestingly enough, Duane Reade was the only location surveyed with higher foot traffic in the morning than the evening, and actually generated the highest unique traffic when broken down by individual store. CVS and Walgreens came in second and third respectively, and Rite Aid again lagged behind in last place.

Our study also found that stores were the most crowded midday (maybe people on their lunch breaks) on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Shoppers looking to swing by any of these locations may want to do so outside of the hours of noon – 5pm, when peak foot traffic begins to decline. Advertisers should consider serving ads to people who work nearby weekday mornings before the midday rush. Wednesday was the least-visited day of the week across all stores, with Sunday a close second. Although foot traffic during the early morning hours of 2am-5am falls to only a quarter of peak foot traffic, it’s still a healthy number that speaks to the appeal of a 24-hour drugstore, especially in bustling commuter cities like NYC and LA where last-minute purchases are all too common.

One of the most interesting data points from our research is that across all locations, weather forecasting apps such as The Weather Channel were among the most popular apps used while shoppers were in-store- the Kika Emoji Keyboard came in at #2. These apps were used mainly on Android devices, which are more popular than iOS devices in drugstores. This can be frustrating for retailers that expend a large amount of resources to keep customers engaged with their products while in store, but it can also help identify pain points that retailers can work around. Instead of having large product displays at the checkout line that customers are not paying attention to, retailers should consider improving functionality of their proprietary mobile apps and encourage customers to engage with it while in-store by offering coupons or app-only exclusives. Retailers can also go with the grain by leaning into their customers interest of the weather forecast, and increase targeted advertising tied to products like umbrellas, bug spray or sunscreen to complement an already identified interest.

The next time you’re thinking of cutting your lunch break short for a store run, remember it’s best to go before or after work, where there won’t be nearly as many people (unless your local drugstore is Duane Reade!). It’s also not a bad idea to go on the weekends, where the foot traffic isn’t nearly as high.

For retailers, these periods are where more resources should be diverted to if you’re looking to ensure that sales stay consistent across the board. Using data-backed location insights, CPG and other brand marketers can get a better understanding as to when their customers will be the most receptive to ads, and hopefully keep them in the drugstore for more than just picking up cough medicine.

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