CVS Health announced plans Thursday to close 900 stores in its core retail pharmacy business over the next three years. The closings, among the biggest mass-retail store shut downs in the industry, represent just a part of a larger strategy shift.
CVS Health Chairman and CEO Larry Merlo said he sees the pharmacy as “an important part of the customer experience,” but his company expects it will be more of a customer-service-driven role than a mere transactional operation.
“This is not an outcome we expect or wanted,” he said on a conference call Thursday morning. “It is nonetheless a part of our strategy to deliver more customer service, to be better at serving our consumers, to be more customer-focused, to get back to our core strengths as a business, as it relates to customer service and being the place where consumers come for pharmaceutical solutions.”
Merlo said that if people don’t walk into CVS to get their prescriptions filled and then have them filled at another pharmacy (regardless of the company that supplied the original prescriptions), they will return to CVS to buy more services from the chain.
The closures are part of a trend sweeping through the drugstore industry. Last year, Walmart closed 154 stores, and others like Target have closed dozens more, raising worries among store workers. But even with the closing of 900 stores, CVS Health said it expects the number of stores open to grow by about 1,300 in 2019.