What Women Want

How drug chains are winning the battle for female loyalty

Published in CSP Daily News

By
Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- In the battle for market share, drug chains have one forte over convenience stores: attracting the female shopper.

Neil Stern, senior partner at McMillanDoolittle LLP, Chicago, believes drug chains are naturally oriented toward females. “I think they do a better job with the female shopper because it’s a more female-friendly store and they’re better in categories like beauty, which is a female-driven category,” he told CSP Daily News.

For an in-depth look at Walgreens’ recent rebirth, read CSP’s March cover story, “Ever Walgreens.” See "related content" below.

David Wright, senior associate at The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash., concurred. “C-stores need to re-imagine serving the needs of how and why women come to their stores.” He points to the progress made with fresh foods and the overall retail experience, “yet with such a fragmented market, the pervasive c-store experience is still seen as petroleum, ready-to-drink beverages, snacks, cigarettes and beer.”

“To tailor offerings to someone like female shoppers requires consumer analysis along the lines of what CVS did with its beauty sections,” Wright said. “This typically requires ethnographic and quantitative analysis of how women live, shop and buy within the context of c-store occasions.”

Females are increasingly what Susan Morris calls “chief purchasing officers.” They make up 51% of the population and 50% of the workforce, and they are the main purchasing decision-maker in a household that’s increasingly made up of three generations.

“I don’t think any of us have woken up to just how powerful women are for pretty much every product out there,” said Morris, owner of retail consultancy New Height Group, West Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

Appealing to the female shopper, she said, means being intuitive, speedy, authentic and trustworthy.

“The most important promise a brand makes is the idea of ‘we understand you, we get you, and you can trust us.’ A brand has to be careful to living up to whatever promises they make because if you break that trust, you’re history. Don’t let me down.”

Intuitiveness means understanding not only what the female shopper is purchasing, but also everything else that’s happening in her day. That can mean running errands with not only young children but also aging parents in the car.

Morris recommended conducting a survey of female shoppers in your stores to understand how you can better serve them.

“There is no downside to an organization focusing on females. If you focus on doing it right for the female consumer, the guys will be happy, too,” Morris said. She points to the hotel industry, which began targeting female travelers with well-lit hallways, skirt hangers, magnifying mirrors in bathrooms and discretion with reading room numbers at check in. Turns out, male guests enjoyed the changes too.

Morris agreed with Wright that CVS has made great strides toward evolving the shopping experience. Walgreens’ reimagined flagship stores--with upscale foods and an overarching theme of wellness as an aspirational lifestyle--could further drive females into its stores for convenience occasions.

But when it comes to true innovation, Morris looks more to brands such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks and Caribou Coffee as competition--and aspiration.

“No c-store has become the Caribou coffee of the industry, of the local, third place. … The good/bad news is, no one has gotten it right,” she said.

For an in-depth look at Walgreens’ recent rebirth, read CSP’s March cover story, “Ever Walgreens.” See "related content" below.

Abbie Westra By Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products
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