COVID-19

Pharmacies are playing a bigger role in local retail during the pandemic

Erika Beras Aug 5, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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About 23 1/2 million Americans don’t live that close to grocery stores, but most people do live within 5 miles of a Walgreens or CVS. Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Pharmacies are playing a bigger role in local retail during the pandemic

Erika Beras Aug 5, 2020
About 23 1/2 million Americans don’t live that close to grocery stores, but most people do live within 5 miles of a Walgreens or CVS. Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The role of the pharmacy store, especially in areas where there aren’t a lot of other retail outlets, is changing during the pandemic. Pharmacies are rarely just pharmacies these days. They’re one-stop shops, convenient for consumers who want to consolidate their shopping trips.

And that approach appears to be going well — CVS Health beat analysts’ expectations for earnings and revenue in the most recent fiscal quarter.

During stay-at-home orders, lots of people are using pharmacists to get medical information, said Mintel analyst Gabrielle Lieberman.

“They are really the only people that we’ve maybe had a chance to interact with from that health care standpoint,” Lieberman said.

And, drugstores sell more than pharmaceuticals. Much of the retail space is devoted to cosmetics, toys and food.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, people are more comfortable going to a nearby pharmacy that’s smaller and [has] fewer people in it than a giant supercenter or a giant grocery store,” said Erik Gordon, professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Also, people may not want to take public transportation to go to the grocery store.

“Not only is it something you have to spend a lot of time to get to, but it’s dangerous to do that,” said Jeff Galak, professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.

For lots of people, pharmacies are the only nearby retail option: About 23.5 million Americans don’t live that close to grocery stores, but most people do live within 5 miles of a Walgreens or CVS.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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