New anti-theft Walgreens store in has just 2 aisles of touchable merchandise
CHICAGO — During an earnings call with Walgreens investors earlier this year, the company’s chief financial officer opined that his fellow executives may have overstated the effects of organized shoplifting rings on its operations.
“Maybe we cried too much last year,” James Kehoe said.
Good luck balancing that cheery, non-crying analysis with what you see when you walk into the company’s freshly redesigned store at 2 East Roosevelt in downtown Chicago.In what was once a typical Walgreens, there are now just two short aisles of so-called “essentials” where “customers may shop for themselves.” If you want anything else—a bottle of booze, a deodorant deemed “non-essential”—you’ll need to order it at a kiosk and pick it up at the counter.
After undergoing a few weeks of construction, the store reopened on Tuesday.
“This redesigned store will have the latest in e-commerce offerings to increase customer service, mitigate theft, and increase safety for our customers and employees,” the company said in a pre-opening statement.
And, boy, are there a lot of employees. Three greet you inside the front door, essentially asking why you’re there.
The pharmacy is in the back and to the left, equipped with a fancy new kiosk system of its own. An employee will teach you how to use it.
To the right, two rows of shelved offerings, gated by anti-shoplifting devices to protect the inventory, is a very limited selection of those so-called “essentials.”
Unlike the tall shelves you’re used to seeing in your neighborhood Walgreens, this store’s shelves are no more than five feet tall, giving everyone a clear look at what everyone else is up to.
When we visited on Wednesday morning, two employees were dedicated to the “shop for yourself” section.
But if you want much of anything other than the very basic of basics, you’ll want to use one of the iPad-like “kiosks,” where a sign invites you to “Let us do the shopping” from the store’s “full selection.”
After placing your order, a plastic-framed sign next to the computer instructs, you should “relax while we shop for you.” When your order is ready, head to the “order pickup-slash-FedEx-slash-Western Union” counter to pay.
The company’s pre-opening letter said the new concept is “aimed at bringing the community a greater convenience and safety.”
Walgreens says the store is “focused on getting customers to place orders ahead of time digitally at Walgreens.com or in the Walgreens app for in-store pickup.”
So, how was our visit? Weird.
After browsing both aisles of touchable merchandise, our intrepid reporter decided to buy an ice-cold Coca-Cola, priced at $1.89 or two for $3.
To start the check-out experience, an employee used their name tag to bring one of the self-serve stations to life.
It promptly charged our reporter $2.89 for the $1.89 soda. Plus tax, of course.
The error was quickly remedied with the help of both “shop for yourself” attendants.
Propped on the sidewalk at the corner of State and Roosevelt, a sandwich board boasts that the company has “built a better Walgreens.”You can judge that for yourself between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily.