If a merger between Idaho-based private grocery store chain Albertsons and Pennsylvania-headquartered public drug store Rite Aid goes through, Western New Yorkers could have a very different experience on future trips to the drugstore.
The merger is not a done deal yet. It must be approved by investors, some of whom have vocally opposed the merger and are pushing for more favorable terms. But in an analyst presentation, the companies put forth a rosy picture of how they could combine their strengths and invigorate both brands. Much of the plan had to do with behind-the-scenes changes that would save both companies money and improve profits.
But plenty of the changes would be obvious to customers in stores, too. From fresh produce and award-winning private-label store brands to mobile-scan checkout, home delivery and meal kits; Rite Aid stores could get quite a makeover.
All of the plans are preliminary, and it could be a long time before new items start popping up in stores – if the changes are implemented at all. But here are a few of their ideas.
More fresh grocery
Not surprisingly, one of the big things Albertsons wants to do in Rite Aid stores is increase the drug store's inventory of grocery offerings. And Albertsons has a lot to offer.
After the merger, you could expect to see more food and beverage options on shelves and in coolers, and more space devoted to them. You'd also see more produce and fresh items you might normally find when perusing the perimeter of a grocery store, such as yogurt, fruit cups and sandwiches.
Both Albertsons and Rite Aid would have framed the move forward with a focus on "food, health and wellness," with all three often overlapping. Albertsons would beef up its pharmacy using the Rite Aid brand, and Rite Aid would beef up its fruits, veggies and fresh foods.
New private-label brands
Albertsons brings a slew of highly rated private-label brands to the table, comprising 11,000 different items. Under the new ownership structure, consumers could find Albertsons' store-brand grocery offerings, such as Lucerne dairy products, O Organics and Refreshe bottled waters and beverages; combined with Rite Aid's current health and beauty brands, such as B4Y and Daylogic.
Albertsons' nimble supply chain, with 20 manufacturing sites and 23 distribution centers across the country, allows it to bring new products to market quickly. Some of those offerings have included such enticing products as Scandal-less 280-calorie ice cream pints, Open Nature Icelandic Style yogurt and its June-released Signature Reserve ice cream in flavors like Indian Cardamom Pistachio and Brazilian Guava Cheesecake.
Albertsons has made a big push into "serving customers when, where, and how they want to shop," including home delivery and beefed-up online shopping. An analyst presentation also listed Drive Up & Go and grocery delivery as features that could possibly available from Rite Aid stores, with a note that it hoped to have rush delivery available to its entire portfolio of stores by the third quarter.
In other markets, Instacart handles Albertsons deliveries. Instacart does not deliver for Rite Aid in the Buffalo Niagara market. Drive Up & Go allows customers to shop and pay for purchases online, then pick them up at the curb at Albertsons stores, but that option doesn't seem to be on the table for Rite Aid.
A new loyalty rewards program
Both Rite Aid and Albertsons have shopper rewards programs. Joining them together and tweaking what they offer will be a major focus for the company as the merger goes forward.
The company hopes to relaunch Rite Aid's Wellness+ program, keeping some old elements and adding some new ones. It remains to be seen whether consumers will end up with the best of both worlds, but the company has outlined the elements it would like to fold together.
From Albertsons' Just for U program, there would be more hyper-personalized deals, based on stronger data analytics; digital coupons, free product samples, personalized shopping lists and incentives to buy more things in departments you don't usually shop.
From Rite Aid's Wellness+ program, it would keep its BonusCash program, which allows you to earn dollars off future purchases and tiered discounts that get better as you rack up more points. It would also have an emphasis on earning points for filled prescriptions.
Scan, Bag, Go
Albertsons has been piloting Amazon Go-type technology that would allow customers buying certain products, such as Plated meal kits, to take items off the shelves and leave without interacting with a cashier. It's also developing "scan-bag-go" technology for faster checkout, where customers can grab a scanner to scan products their own products and bag them as they shop.
They're all features aimed at making shopping in stores more like shopping online – giving shoppers more autonomy and convenience and letting you skip the line at the register.
Albertsons has a subscription meal-kit delivery service like Blue Apron called Plated, which has the option to order family-sized meals. It wants to begin selling subscriptions through Rite Aid and also start stocking Plated kits in select Rite Aid stores.
The do-it-yourself complete meal kits feature such dishes as crunchy chicken Milanese with honey mustard and arugula, coconut curry noodles and roasted chicken au jus with orzo and peas. Plated costs $9.95 per serving if you buy three or four servings, or $11.95 for two servings. There is free shipping on plans costing more than $60.
The company is working on making diet-specific meal kits for patients with certain chronic medical conditions, and hopes to get the kits approved by national health plans so they can be prescribed by doctors (and possibly covered by health insurance or flexible spending dollars). The company has five Plated fulfillment centers, with the closest one in the Bronx.