Walgreens Beefs Up Beverages

Drugstore chain's new store design concept puts Caf W front and center

LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. -- A new Walgreens store design is giving the drugstore chain's Caf a W beverage-center concept a higher-profile position, potentially offering a greater threat to neighboring convenience stores. The new stores include a "W Market" section in the front of the store that features many traditional c-store products and a 12-foot coffee/beverage counter along the front wall near the checkout.

Caf a W is a three-year-old concept that has seen many iterations, from a four-foot section with a single coffee dispenser to 16-foot countertops offering coffee, fountain [image-nocss] drinks and Icees, along with a variety of bakery, snack items and even packaged sandwiches in some sites.

"There have been different versions of Cafe W as we tested it, refined it and started rolling it out," a Walgreens spokesperson told CSP Daily News. "At this time, typical Caf a Ws are self-serve counters that have one or two coffee machines, fountain soda and ICEEs. Snack displays can include single-serving cookies, crackers, breakfast-type bars, nuts and candy."

She added that "several hundred" Walgreens locations include Caf a W, "and we're still rolling them out," but would not say how many sites exist. "We have not released the number of Cafe Ws we plan to have, or where they will be," she said. "This is an evolving concept, so Cafe W may not stay the same going forward."

The latest versions scouted by CSP in the far north suburbs of Chicago include 12-foot countertops topped with a specialty coffeemaker offering cappuccino, latte, chai tea latte, mocha, hot chocolate and French vanilla espresso drinks; a soda fountain with Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr Pepper products; and a two-flavor Icee machine. The snacks include a variety of Hostess and Pop-Tart-type products, along with bakery items branded Caf a W.

Specialty coffee drinks are priced $1.29 for 12-oz. cups and $1.59 for 15-oz. cups. Fountain drinks are priced $1.19 for 22-oz. cups and $1.59 for 32-oz. cups.

Earlier this year, David VanHowe, vice president of purchasing for Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens, told the Chicago Tribune thatthe hope for Caf a W is that office commuters, moms running errands and teenagers after school will come into the store for coffee or a snack and spend money on other items.

The new design concept includes two significant changes from typical Walgreens sites: First, the aisles run left to right rather than front to back. And second, gondolas nearest the entrance of the store stand only four-feet high, providing open sightlines to the back of the store.
The Walgreens spokesperson did not comment on the W Market concept.

Walgreens is the nation's largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2007 sales of $53.8 billion. The company operates 6,297 drugstores in 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

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