A tale of two brands
In a somewhat predictable move, Walgreens is testing the water in Florida to see how abandoning tobacco sales in the Gainesville market might impact the national drug store chain’s business.
Hmm … so what would happen if a major pharmaceutical retailer decided to no longer sell cigarettes? Snarkiness aside, CVS made this move nearly four years ago (on a national scale). And even though CVS may not be hot to share data with Walgreens, a simple Google search is revealing. The most striking result? CVS customers tried to stop smoking.
A ripple effect …
Customers who bought their cigarettes only at CVS were 38% more likely to stop buying cigarettes, CVS research in the American Journal of Public Health reveals. But the positive impact didn’t stop there. The study concluded that “after CVS’s tobacco removal, household- and population-level cigarette purchasing declined significantly.”
In addition, CVS launched a smoking cessation campaign that resulted in an uptick in cessation medications to the tune of 63% on a monthly basis.
These are remarkable statistics, and it would be hard to imagine that CVS’s actions won’t have life-saving results on some level.
Additionally, even though CVS officials braced themselves for $2 billion in lost tobacco sales, revenue actually went up (although that is more attributable to savvy business decisions, expansions of other services and maybe a little karma).
… that reaches the competition
In regard to Walgreens and tobacco, corporate spokesman Scott Goldberg said a “citywide test run will span about 12 to 18 months to gauge feedback before chain officials decide whether to implement the change at other stores in Florida. Walgreens has more than 800 stores in Florida, the most of any state.”
I can’t say I’m overwhelmed by the boldness of Walgreens’ approach here (again, snarkiness), but my gut tells me that if they follow CVS in going tobacco-free, others in their sector will soon follow. Which brings us to the kicker. You know who will get credit for Walgreens getting its massive customer base to reduce their tobacco use? CVS.
So, here’s the question. What’s your tobacco?
Is it coal? Is it single-use plastic? Is it red meat? Is it, like Volvo, the gas-powered car? What bold steps will your sector be taking in the next 10-20 years, and what role will you play in it? Will you be a CVS or will you be a Walgreens?
Granted, trends are hard to predict, and a lot of these issues aren’t as cut-and-dried as tobacco. But change is coming. Social and environmental pressures will continue to mount on a number of fronts, and when the dominoes start to fall, it’s a whole lot better to be a leader than a laggard.
There are very few industries that aren’t facing major market shifts in the coming decades. Whether it be increased rates of obesity and diabetes, climate change, water shortages or whatever else might be on the horizon, the world as we now know it is most definitely not the world of the future. If you don’t make changes now, the market (or worse yet, regulation) will force your hand.
Compliance is expensive, leadership can be profitable. The choice is yours.