Kroger Expansion – Digital, Physical, Strategic, and Specialty Pharma … Oh My!

Since one of my first jobs was at Kroger, I’ve always been intrigued to see what happens with them. (I can even still go back almost 30 years later and still have some of the General Managers at my old store come out and remember me.) So, I was initially intrigued a few weeks ago when the story came out in Drug Store News about their expansion plans.

“Over the course of a day-long investor conference Tuesday, Kroger outlined its future growth strategy. Across its physical store base, Kroger plans to enter one or two as-yet-to-be-named new markets along with boosting presence in existing markets. But Kroger also has significant designs on the multichannel consumer, and outlined for analysts the grocer’s plan to grow its marketshare across the digital landscape as well.”

Kroger has several interesting assets to leverage:

Now, with today’s announcement, they’ve made a jump into the Specialty Pharmacy Space with their acquisition of Axium. It begs the question of what they want to be – a grocer with a pharmacy, a pharmacy with groceries, a health destination, or something new.

Looking at some JD Powers data from 2010, they are positioned in the middle of the pack from a pharmacy satisfaction perspective.

On the other hand, if I look at their positioning from Bruce Tempkin’s analysis, they score well.

I have to believe there’s some great opportunity here. I’m a big believer that the retail assets create large opportunities for them to play in the broader healthcare market.

  • They have broad hours (in some cases 24/7).
  • They are natural destinations for people.
  • They can host clinics.
  • They already have pharmacies.
  • They have food which is a critical part of addressing obesity and for certain conditions like hypertension and diabetes.
  • They have patient specific data around things like home monitoring tests, food products, OTCs, and other products.
  • They are generally located in easy access locations.
  • They have good brand equity.

For example, just look at this press release from Target from a few years ago. This is a broad vision (that I’ve never heard or seen in the market). On the flipside, we know that CVS, Walgreens, and WalMart are spending considerable efforts trying to really “own” this space with their teams. We also know that specialty pharmacy (and even pharma in general) is trying to see how it gets out of its box and become broader players in the health continuum looking beyond just drugs to actual outcomes. (This is why healthcare is so exciting right now!)

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