Walgreens merchandising chief to depart

Dive Brief:

  • Linda Filler, Walgreens Boots Alliance's president of retail products and chief merchandising and marketing officer, will leave the drugstore chain effective April 1; she has plans to accept a second public company board role and to devote more time to her family, the company told Retail Dive Thursday.

  • “We appreciate Linda’s contributions to our company," Walgreens Media Relations Manager Emily Hartwig-Mekstan said in a statement e-mailed to Retail Dive. "Under her leadership, we have created a clear plan to accelerate our progress in Retail Products and we’re seeing market-share growth and improvement in customer satisfaction. Linda has agreed to act in a strategic advisory capacity to us beyond this date.

  • Filler joined Walgreens in the then-newly created role in 2014 from teen accessories retailer Claire’s, where she was president. Walgreens didn't immediately respond to Retail Dive's request for comment on her pending exit.

Dive Insight:

With Walgreens Boots Alliance's proposed merger with rival Rite Aid in jeopardy due to antitrust concerns, the retailers last month agreed to reduce the price for each share of Rite Aid common stock to be paid by Walgreens. In addition, Walgreens Boots Alliance will be required to divest up to 1,200 Rite Aid stores and certain additional related assets to obtain regulatory approval. The drugstore rivals said they also agreed to extend their merger process end date to July 31 to allow additional time to obtain regulatory approval.

But at its shareholders meeting earlier this month, Walgreens Boots executives faced more questions about its merchandising than about the Rite Aid deal. Shareholders in particular pressed Walgreens on its cigarette sales: A few noted a study released by competing drugstore chain CVS showing that its decision to halt tobacco sales has led to an overall decrease in smoking among Americans. They also noted the incongruity of Walgreens’ position as a healthcare provider (especially one offering products and services to help people quit smoking), and one shareholder expressed concern about damaging the Walgreens brand by continuing sales of tobacco products.

Executive chairman James Skinner said that he hadn’t yet looked at the CVS study and added that the company spends a lot of time “trying to convince people to stop smoking … but we also respect the choice of our consumers — that’s also part of our decision over time.”

If and when the tobacco policy is changed in the future, Filler will play only a strategic role in the decision making process. She nevertheless is leaving Walgreens in a stronger position as a retailer than CVS, which appears to be throwing most of its weight behind its healthcare operations; highlights of Filler's tenure include the launch of Beauty Enthusiast, a new club within its Balance Rewards loyalty program, a move to capitalize on the strength of its retail beauty sales.

Walgreens on Wednesday said that it will soon have more to announce regarding who will replace Filler. "We are working on how these important areas of our business will be led in the future and will follow up with further announcements over the next few weeks," according to Hartwig-Mekstan.

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Filed Under: Corporate News