Walk down the main streets of any major city and retail dysfunction radiates from the blank and butcher-papered windows of empty storefronts. In Manhattan, fully one-third of retail locations are vacant. In San Francisco, iconic retailers like the quixotic Gump’s have vanished into memory.
The rising generation has decided that it prefers to purchase pretty much everything online. And that tendency is likely to only grow as AI’s for personalization improve, last-mile delivery services go drone, and 3D printing makes just-in-time manufacture more prevalent.
So, what will happen to Main Street?
In a word, we believe it will be wellness.
While goods-based retail is shrinking, consumer-centric health is booming. Treatments that once only occurred in doctor’s offices are now coming to a store near you. And a new wave of science focused on wellness will expand that trend through wearables and individualized health products that will combine to compel new modes of distribution and sales.
Here are a few flashes of light from the shift of Main Street to medicine:
·Pharmacy giant CVS has more than 1,100 retail MinuteClinics, compared to 800 ﬁve years ago, and 400 a decade ago. These micro-medical outposts can deliver 125 health services including inoculations, simple physicals, and even some forms of early diagnosis. "By extending our new health care model more broadly in the marketplace, patients will beneﬁt from earlier interventions and better connected care leading to improved health outcomes," CVS CEO Larry Merlo said at a September CVS Health town hall meeting in Los Angeles.
Walgreens now has nurse practitioners in many stores who can conduct routine and annual school-required student exams, as well as provide vaccination. "Why not use those locations as a strategy for healthcare?" Walgreens Chief Medical Ofﬁcer Dr. Patrick Carroll said in a recent news report of the drugstore chain's nearly 10,000 locations. "We have the space. We should use it. With our stores serving as more of a neighborhood health destination, we can best meet the changing needs of our customers, while also complementing our expanded pharmacy services."
In a new pilot expansion of such services, Walgreen’s has partnered with MedExpress, a young urgent care clinic company to co-locate their centers at 15 stores. The MedExpress and Walgreen’s stores will have their own entrance but will connect inside. This will allow a doctor or nurse to direct a patient to either facility depending on their prescription or other needs, saving the patient time and increasing the efficiency of care delivery.
The trend extends beyond traditional care toward gentler forms of well-being. Mattress company Casper, for instance, recently opened The Dreamery, a nap showroom where customers can schedule 45-minute naps in specialized pods.
Wellness teaching is coming to retail as well. Workout gear maker Lululemon, for instance, now offers in-store yoga classes and meditation spaces. They even have Zen Pods in select stores where individuals can do guided meditations.
British online luxury fashion company FarFetch has extended in-store health experience into augmented reality. Founder Jose Neves has a vision where advancements in technology free up time, allowing people to spend more time doing things that bring them joy. This idea is embedded in the company’s recent pop-up Store of the Future in London that bridges online and offline into a single experience. The stores include connected clothing racks, touch-screen “smart” mirrors and sign-in stations that could help put data collected from customers online to deliver customized products and services in the store.
All of these current projects, we believe, are simply the first steps in a much deeper integration of health into Main Street.
Stay tuned - more on where this is all going in our next post!
By Managing Partner Mike Edelhart