The test builds on Boots drugstores’ significant vision care operations in the U.K., where the retailer runs 636 optical practices, according to Drugstore News’ report. Nearly 30% are vision care franchises in U.K. Boots stores and the rest are standalone vision clinics.
Services at “Walgreens Optical” in Chicago’s Wrigley Building, which include comprehensive adult and pediatric eye exams from fully-licensed optometrists and opticians, “advanced lenses” and a full range of eyeglass frames, and pre- and post-eye surgery care, are provided by an independent company whose practitioners are not Walgreens employees, according to the reports.
Drugstore retailers are increasingly morphing into alternative health care clinics, taking advantage of the increased health care coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act and tapping into consumer demand for more convenient medical services.
Walgreens’ venture into optical care, boosted by its U.K. Boots arm (with which it merged in 2014), opens another facet of medical care that could boost traffic and spending to its physical retail stores and could be a significant challenge to rivals.
For now, the retailer will stick to piloting the one store before deciding whether to roll out more centers or enhancements, Walgreens spokesperson Jim Graham told Drug Store News. "Walgreens believes vision care, combining health and fashion, has potential as an expanded offering as it strives to be America’s most-loved pharmacy-led health, well-being and beauty retailer," Graham said.
The company is also in the midst of a plan to acquire rival Rite Aid for $9.4 billion, which would bring its number of stores to some 12,800. However, as many as 1,000 stores would reportedly need to shutter in order to satisfy antitrust regulators, and Fred's Pharmacy last month announced it would take on 865 stores for $950 million in cash, a deal that would likely satisfy those concerns.