The Walgreen Company, better known as just Walgreen’s, is the second-largest pharmacy store chain in America, behind CVS Health. Walgreen’s specializes in pharmaceuticals, both those that can be bought over-the-counter and those that are filled by prescription, as well as a variety of other products and services, such as photo services, health and wellness, cosmetics, greeting cards, and gifts. For the most part, however, Walgreen’s is simply known as a pharmacy, but there’s a lot more to this company than meets the eye. Here’s 20 things you didn’t know about Walgreen’s.
1. The Man Who Started It All
The story about Walgreen’s wouldn’t be complete without starting in the beginning. Charles R. Walgreen, Sr began working in Horton’s Drugstore when he was sixteen years old. Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately – depends on how you look at it!) Walgreen’s athletic career ended when he accidentally cut off the top joint of his middle finger, rendering him unable to further perform athletically. If it hadn’t been for this accident, however, Walgreen may never have become a pharmacist and, later, a phenomenally successful business owner and entrepreneur.
2. The First Walgreen’s
In 1901, Walgreen Sr bought his first drugstore in Chicago. He had been working there as a pharmacist and when the opportunity arose to buy the drugstore, he took it. It was this store that started the famous Walgreen’s chain. This first neighborhood drugstore was only fifty feet by twenty feet – only a thousand square feet in all! The approximate size of a Walgreen’s pharmacy and store now is almost fourteen thousand square feet. That’s fourteen times larger than the original store.
3. How Many Now?
At last count, there are 8,175 Walgreen pharmacies all over the United States, with the headquarters appropriately located in Chicago where the first Walgreen’s began. The drugstores are in all fifty states, including the District of Columbian, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. In fact, there are so many of these stores now that seventy-six percent of America’s population only live a mere five miles from one. This is probably one of the reasons why the pharmacy chain is so popular.
4. Take Your Meds!
Last year, Walgreen’s filled ninety hundred and ninety million prescriptions, which also included immunizations, on average, every thirty days. That’s about three pills each for every man, woman, and child living in the United States! It’s claimed that forty-six percent of American adults take some kind of prescription. On average, those who take medications get around twelve prescriptions filled every year.
5. That’s a LOT of Customers
Have you ever went to a Walgreen’s and wondered if they were having some kind of huge sale due to all the customers milling around? Well, that’s because on a daily basis, an average of about eight million customers visit Walgreen’s, some in stores and some online. However they shop, get prescriptions filled, or photos developed, that’s a lot of customers!
6. A City of Employees
The Walgreen Company is so large that they employee a fairly large city’s worth of people, almost a quarter million people! That’s the population size of Richmond, VA, or Spokane, Washington! If you’re wondering what that ends up making the average amount of employees per store, it’s twenty-five. That includes the pharmacists and pharmacy techs as well as cashiers, photo shop employees, and stockers.
The first store was opened in 1901. By 1926, Walgreen Sr opened his one hundredth store. Almost sixty years later, in 1984, Walgreen opened this one thousandth store. The five thousandth store was opened in 2005 and the eight thousandth store was opened in 2012. It’s easy to say that Mr. Walgreen knew what he was doing. After all, the pharmacy giant reached one billion dollars in sales way back in 1975! However, I bet he never knew his pharmacy chain would one day bring in over seventy-five billion dollars a year, which is what the store makes now.
8. A Giant Before Its Time
Walgreen’s became such a pharmacy giant early on that in 1960, the chain had filled its millionth prescription, which was far more than any other drug store chain at the time. Nowadays, the drug store chain fills more than that in just one day! When people talk about the pharmaceutical industry, they think manufacturers, but they forget about the distributors, pharmacies like Walgreen’s, which have just as much influence.
9. The Drug Store Chain That Cares
The child-resistant containers which medications now come in are commonplace; every medication that gets filled at a pharmacy comes in one, but it wasn’t always the case. Walgreen’s was actually the first major pharmacy store chain to use child-resistant containers for putting their customers prescriptions in way back in the 1960s. This was long before the law required pharmacies to do so. Walgreen’s cared about children not being able to get into the medication and made sure they did something about it. It must have cost more, at least initially, to switch over to the child-proof option, but they did it without having to be forced to do so. Knowing a company cares enough to take precautions without being made to do so says a lot about it’s owner(s) and/or CEO.
10. Famous Malted Milkshake
In 1922, the famous malted milkshake was invented by none other than Walgreen’s. The milkshake was so popular that customers would stand three and four deep, waiting in line, at soda fountains inside the drug store chains just to be able to get a taste of that “double-rich chocolate malted milk.” What was a craze then has outlasted many others; after all, people still get malted milkshakes today. Of course, there’s a lot more flavors to choose from these days, so the malted milkshake isn’t quite as popular as it was back then. However, there’s plenty who remember it as the first milkshake they ever had.
11. It’s All Greek to Me
Although English is the native language of most Americans, there are plenty of other languages spoken there. If prescriptions were written in English for someone who could only read Spanish, they wouldn’t know how to take their prescribed medicine. To alleviate this problem, Walgreen’s began offering prescription labels in other languages in 2002, the first drug store chain to do so. The languages that prescriptions can now be printed in are the following: English, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Polish, Korean, Japanese, Italian, German, French, Chinese, and Arabic. It’s really another way that Walgreen’s has shown they care about their customers.
12. Environmentally Friendly
Wanting to try something new, Walgreen’s opened a net zero energy store on November 21, 2013. It’s believed that this was the nation’s first store which was anticipated to produce either the same amount of energy it consumes or maybe even more. The drug store is supported by a geothermal system which is buried five hundred and fifty feet below ground, nearly eight hundred and fifty solar panels, and two wind turbines to provide all the energy needed to run the place. It’s really too bad that we didn’t figure out how to use the sun and wind for energy before relying on fossil fuels.
13. Alliance Boots
Walgreen’s completed its strategic merger with Alliance Boots in December 2014. The new combination produced Walgreen’s Boots Alliance, Inc, the first global health and well-being enterprise forged and led by a pharmacy. The merging of these two companies brought together two iconic brands as well as shared values and a history of trusted health services. The two companies have a hundred years of experience each in patient and customer care. The merger gave the pharmacy giant time to think about their business in a new way. Because of the transformation achieved with the merger, Walgreen’s made significant progress in bringing their services to more patients, improving the overall shopping experience, and managing costs. Most recently, this expansion has also included the acquisition of over nineteen hundred Rite Aids, previously a rival drugstore, in order to make health care more accessible to patients and customers.
14. Healthcare Service Providers
The fact is, Walgreen’s employs more than seventy-eight thousand healthcare service providers, such as pharmacists, pharmacy techs, and nurse practitioners, just to name a few. This is all part of their mission to provide America with the best pharmacy-led health, beauty, and well-being retailer. Walgreen’s purpose is to help provide for everyone’s right to be healthy and happy. Their healthcare service providers are part of this mission.
15. Member Rewards
Walgreen’s has about eighty-eight million customers who are members of the Balance Rewards loyalty program. This program, which doesn’t cost anything to join, allows customers to earn points just by shopping at the drug store chain in addition to doing healthy activities such as getting immunizations and exercising. This program helps encourage not just the loyalty of Walgreen’s customers, but also their good health. Another way customers can save is through the Prescription Savings Club. This program offers members discounts on more than eight thousand generic and brand name medications. In addition, the drug store chain offers online and mobile services along with mail service, and retail, specialty, and medical facilities for their customers to choose from. These combined services not only help customers to improve their health, but also to lower costs for payers, which includes health care systems, managed care organizations, employers, pharmacy benefit managers, and the customer himself.
16. Medicare Provisions
Another way Walgreen’s provides savings to their customers and the growing senior population and other Medicare recipients in America is by including nine national Medicare Part D plan sponsors in the preferred networks in addition to being in the networks of hundreds of prescription drug plans for Medicare prescriptions. The pharmacy giant serves as a convenient and accessible resource for Medicare information and, in the process, offers free, personalized plan comparisons online everyday and every location. This is to help those who receive Medicare to evaluate the plans in order to choose which plan best suits their needs.
17. Walgreen’s Alumni Association
In 1981, a group of longtime employees who wanted to be able to keep in touch after retirement formed the Alumni Association. The Association is open to all Walgreen’s retirees who are fifty-five or older and who have had at least ten years of service with the company. The Association’s different chapters have local activities, such as the Chicago chapter where they hold luncheons twice a year. In addition, the Alumnis publish a biannual newsletter to help keep track of current members, retiree news, and happening around the company.
18. Pharmacists Do More Than Just Fill Prescriptions
The pharmacists at Walgreen’s play a larger role in health care than you now. Besides their pharmacy services, the drug store chain also provides access to other convenient, important health services such as immunizations and health tests which are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These are available on a walk-in basis during regular pharmacy hours every day. In addition, the pharmacy is rapidly augmenting the number of stores which offer consultation rooms that are private for patients to talk to pharmacists. This helps to enhance the pharmacist-patient relationship and experience while improving care received by the patient. Walgreen’s offers medical services as well through its Healthcare Clinics which are located in over four hundred stores across the country. The clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners who have been board-certified and who have been trained specifically to diagnose and treat a variety of chronic conditions and illnesses, provide preventive care, and order diagnostic tests as needed. Additionally, the drug store chains also has a partnership with WebMD for additional health resources available to the customer.
19. Looking and Feeling Good
It seems that according to surveys, one in five customers who frequent Walgreen’s wants to both look good and feel good. Walgreen’s has always been a provider of beauty products, but they have recently introduced a wider range of products for both women and men which are high-quality, including shaving items, nail polish, fragrances, and hair care. Furthermore, a number of the pharmacy giant’s stores, as well as all online properties, have began carrying the popular Boots No7 products.
In addition to their acquiring Rite Aid, Walgreen’s has also purchased other drugstore chains as well. In 2006, the drug store chain acquired Happy Harry’s, which added another seventy-six stores to their total. In 2007, they purchased Take Care Health Systems. Later that same year they also acquired Option Care, with another hundred pharmacies in thirty-four states. With these acquisitions, Walgreen’s was able to provide a full spectrum of home infusion and specialty pharmacy services. In 2008, the pharmacy gaint also acquired I-trax/CHD Meridian Healthcare in their effort to ever strive forward and provide the Walgreen’s customer with any and all of their healthcare needs.