CVS: Nope, We Aren’t Bringing Back The Target Pharmacy Bottles Everyone Loves


When Target reported its last batch of quarterly results, CEO Brian Cornell noted that visits to its in-store pharmacies were down after the conversion of those pharmacies to mini CVS stores. Readers explained to us why they left, and a popular reason was that CVS ditched Target’s easy-to-use red prescription bottles. Some customers held on to hope that CVS would deploy the bottles across its whole chain now that it owns the patent. Now we know the answer: nope.
A CVS spokesman finally picked up the phone and spoke to the Associated Press about the issue, explaining that it’s easier and more cost-efficient to use the same bottles across all 9,600 CVS pharmacies, instead of keeping the red bottles at the stores inside Target.
CVS as a whole is working on a new dispensing system, and the AP even reports that Deborah Adler, the designer behind the beloved red bottles, is working on the project. However, CVS declined to answer whether the new system would incorporate any elements of the beloved Target packaging.
The CVS spokesman also said that he didn’t see a connection between the drop in pharmacy sales and the phaseout of Target’s red bottles, possibly because he hasn’t talked to any customers.



Unhappy Target customers send strong message on pill bottles

In this Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, photo, Shelley Ewalt sits in her home, in Princeton, N.J., near an amber-colored CVS pharmacy prescription bottle, right, and two uniquely designed red ones from Target. After CVS took over operation of Target's drugstores earlier this year, distraught customers have been asking the drugstore chain to bring back the retailer’s red prescription bottles, which came with color-coded rings, labeling on the top and prescription information that was easier to read. Ewalt tweeted to the drugstore chain, asking if there was any chance they might return to the design of the Target bottles, which she found easier to open.
In this Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, photo, Shelley Ewalt sits in her home, in Princeton, N.J., near an amber-colored CVS pharmacy prescription bottle, right, and two uniquely designed red ones from Target. After CVS took over operation of Target's drugstores earlier this year, distraught customers have been asking the drugstore chain to bring back the retailer’s red prescription bottles, which came with color-coded rings, labeling on the top and prescription information that was easier to read. Ewalt tweeted to the drugstore chain, asking if there was any chance they might return to the design of the Target bottles, which she found easier to open.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Longtime customers of Target's pharmacies are finding a change in pill bottle design hard to swallow.
After CVS began operating Target's drugstores earlier this year, distraught customers have been asking - in some cases begging - the drugstore chain to bring back the retailer's red prescription bottles, which came with color-coded rings, labeling on the top and prescription information that was easier to read.
Some customers also took more drastic steps.
Vivian Ruth Sawyer went fishing through her trash to rescue the old Target bottles soon after opening her stapled prescription bag to find the dowdy, white-capped amber vials that are common in most medicine cabinets. She has since poured refills of her thyroid medicine into the old Target bottles, even though they don't have the right expiration dates. It's worth it, she said, because those bottles make it easier to tell her prescriptions apart when she looks in her drawer for them.
"This is really inconvenient and irritating," the Louisville, Kentucky, resident said.
CVS says it is working on designing a new system for dispensing prescriptions and helping people stay on their medications, but spokeswoman Carolyn Castel declined to share details or say whether that might involve an updated bottle design.
Meanwhile, shoppers continue to mourn the loss of a bottle that was considered groundbreaking when it debuted about a decade ago. Target flipped bottle design on its head when it introduced in 2005 a red container with the opening on the bottom.
That allowed the label to wrap around the top so it could be seen from above. It included a flat surface that customers found easier to read than the curve of a typical pill bottle, and it came with color-coded rings for the neck to help family members quickly tell their medicines apart. Deborah Adler devised the new approach as part of her master's thesis at New York's School of Visual Arts. She was inspired to try something different after her grandmother mistakenly took her grandfather's prescription. Adler now runs her own design business and is working with CVS on its new prescription system.

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The red bottles were important to Christina Mihalek, of Cincinnati, because she accidentally took her mom's high blood pressure medicine instead of an antibiotic when she was in high school, and she passed out in the lunch line that day. Mihalek took to Twitter to voice her displeasure, telling CVS in a post with the hashtag #redbottlesrock that "perfection was at your fingertips."
Shelley Ewalt of Princeton, New Jersey, also tweeted to the drugstore chain, asking if there was any chance they might return to the "vastly superior design" of the Target bottles, which she found easier to open.
Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS Health Corp., which runs the nation's second-largest drugstore chain, started operating Target pharmacies earlier this year as part of a $1.9-billion deal the companies announced in 2015.
CVS's Castel said the company stopped using Minneapolis-based Target Corp.'s bottles because it's more efficient to fill prescriptions with the same bottle at all of its 9,600 pharmacies.
Customer visits to Target's in-store pharmacies slipped in the second quarter. Castel said CVS doesn't see a connection between that and the change in prescription bottles.
But the bottle switch might have influenced a small percentage of customers to shop elsewhere, according to Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst with market researcher NPD Group. He said the second quarter was tough for many retailers, but he also noted that regular customers to pharmacies don't like change.
"When you start tinkering with things ... the consumer kind of gets a little testy," he said.
Patients can buy prescription bottle caps that glow or beep when it's time to take their medicine. But Purdue University pharmacy professor Alan Zillich hasn't seen much of an evolution in the design of pill containers used by pharmacies because it just isn't worth it, financially.
"Even though drugs cost a lot, pharmacies don't make much off each individual prescription," he said.
Sawyer still holds out hope that any new system CVS adopts might include features from the old Target bottles to replace the amber bottles, which she describes as a "ghastly" leftover from the 1950s.
"Everyone else uses the same stupid bottle," she said.

More consumers are dropping their Target shopping habit.

If you’ve been shopping less at Target lately, you’re not alone. Foot traffic in stores is down 2.2%. 

Comparable store sales fell 1.1% during the May-July period, the first time in two years there’s been a decline during these months.  

And Target is now saying that it anticipates further strife in the months ahead: 

The company is projecting that sales will dip as much as 2% during the third and fourth quarters of 2016—which include the key back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons—after previously forecasting growth between 1.5% and 2.5%

This is all according to the earnings report released by Target on Wednesday for the second quarter of 2016, ending July 30. Understandably, shares of Target stock have been taking a beatingas a result, down around 5% early on Wednesday. Why are shoppers turning away from Target? Here are some reasons:

Groceries.   As we reported earlier this week, Target has struggled mightily with its decade-long push to become a go-to grocery destination for shoppers. Target sits “in the middle of no man’s land” among grocery competitors, Target COO John Mulligan has admitted, because it lacks the quality and selection of Whole Foods and has higher prices than Walmart and Aldi.
One of the reasons stores like Target have grocery sections in the first place is to boost foot traffic, as shoppers tend to need groceries more regularly than clothing or electronics. The idea is that shoppers are more likely to make other, non-planned purchases during grocery runs. But if consumers do their regular grocery shopping elsewhere—and by most accounts, that’s what they do—then Target misses out on all the peripheral and impulse buys shoppers theoretically would have made had they been in the store to pick up milk, eggs, and such.
Target’s failure to attract a broad swath of grocery shoppers, you see, has a negative trickle-down effect on sales in aisles throughout the store.
Prescription Medications.   As the (Minneapolis) Star Tribunereported, one of the reasons cited by Target CEO Brian Cornell for the company’s 2.2% decline in foot traffic was the transition of its pharmacy operations to CVS.
Consumer advocates worried that Target’s decision to let CVS run its pharmacy operations and in-store clinics would hurt competition in the marketplace and perhaps result in higher drug prices for consumers. While it’s unclear if there’s been any across-the-board impact on prescription pricing during months of transitioning to CVS, Target said the change has led to some disruptions in sales.
As with groceries, many consumers need prescriptions on a regular basis. So if these shoppers are not going to Target to pick up their meds, Target is also missing out on all the potential trickle-down sales as well.
Apple.  During Wednesday’s conference call, Cornell called out poor sales of electronics—and Apple in particular—as another reason for the company’s underwhelming performance. Apple sales were down 20% in the quarter at Target.
Part of the reason for declining Apple sales at Target is that Apple sales in general haven’t been as strong as they have in previous years. But clearly, another reason is that shoppers have found other outlets other than Target for picking up their Apple devices.
Fashion.   It’s been a long time since people referred to Target as “Tarjhay.”During the first decade of the millennium, Target enjoyed a reputation as a hot cheap chic destination thanks to frequent partnerships with fashion lines like Isaac Mizrahi and Missoni. With each launch of such goods, Target could expect sales crazes with huge lines and the kind of in-store excitement that Walmart could never dream of.
Not all the partnerships worked out well, though. The Target-Neiman Marcus collection was a disaster. More recently, Target introduced a collaboration with the Finnish designer Marimekko in the spring of 2016. The response from shoppers was fairly tepid, but not anywhere near the over-the-top successes of past fashion partnerships, including one withLilly Pulitzer a year ago.
Overall, Target says sales of its “signature categories” (including stylish apparel) “outpaced the total business by 3 percentage points” in the second quarter of 2016, according to CNBC. But no one can honestly say that the Target fashions of today are the draw that they were five or ten years ago.
Amazon.   It’s not just Target that’s been having trouble with apparel sales.Macy’sSears, J.C. PenneyGapAmerican Eagle, and others have been experience huge sales declines—and huge store closures as a result.
One of the reasons people aren’t shopping at these stores is that they’re turning to cheaper “fast fashion” retailers like H&M and Primark. Another is that they’re more likely nowadays to shop online for clothes—specifically at Amazon. Amazon has quietly but massively been expanding its apparel options, and as with nearly every other shopping category under the sun, the world’s largest retailer is rapidly stealing clothing sales from the competition.
Target’s online sales were up 16% during the most recent quarter. That may sound pretty good, but it’s poor compared to the increase in the first quarter of 2016 (23%) and the second quarter of 2015 (30%). What’s more, analysts say that Target’s e-commerce operations, which got off the ground more slowly than most of the field, are still far behind the competition. So the only result that would be viewed as positive is if Target’s digital sales increases were blowing away everyone at this point.
“Target being in line is not good enough,” JP Morgan analyst Chris Horvers said on CNBC, discussing how Target’s online sales growth has basically just been keeping pace with competitors of late. “They’re playing catch up so they should be outperforming the market at this point.”


How Target Plans to Boost Grocery Sales Without Copying Walmart

Christopher Dilts—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Target won't have a butcher or sell sushi anytime soon.

A big reason why fewer people are shopping at Target lately is that its grocery section has failed to attract regular, dedicated customers. Target’s groceries, one company executive said, have been in “no man’s land,” in that the selection hasn’t nearly been as robust or interesting as Whole Foods, and the prices aren’t nearly as low as Walmart or Aldi.
As a result, the typical shopper might pick up a few food items when swinging by the local Target on other errands, but doesn’t do regular grocery shopping at the store. That’s a big problem for Target. Groceries are low-margin, and the only way they make sense for retailers is if they drive tons of traffic into stores, where shoppers are prone to making other, more profitable purchases.
The company says that it has been making improvements to store grocery departments even before the release of its dismal second-quarter sales results. “Target has been adding hundreds of new items to its shelves including a number of organic, natural and gluten-free products and bolstering key categories for its fill-in grocery trips such as snacks, yogurt, and craft beer,” the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reported. Target has been pumping up low-price promotions and fresh produce offerings as well.
But the tweaks seem to be just that—tweaks—and Target says it has no plans to dramatically expand into a full-service grocery seller along the lines of Whole Foods, Wegman’s, Kroger, or Walmart. “We’re not a grocer,” Target CEO Brian Cornell told reporters on Wednesday, according to the Wall Street Journal. “We’ve been able to drive traffic without having a sushi chef.”
There will be no butchers or rotisserie ovens serving fresh-roasted chickens in Target stores either. “We provide a convenient selection of foods,” Cornell said. But it’s “a self-service grocery experience,” and the grocery department is “not one of our signature categories nor will it be.”
Coming back from their mis-adventure in Canada and ignoring how Wally World stubbed its corporate toe on mini-stores, Tarbutt is now going ahead with their own branded mini-stores and probably another disaster.

Get Ready for Hundreds of Small Target Stores, CEO Says
 Shannon Pettypiece - September 14, 2016

Target Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian Cornell is thinking small when it comes to expanding the big-box retailer.

Cornell envisions eventually opening hundreds of smaller “flex-format” stores that could be a major part of Target’s future growth, he told reporters Wednesday during the company’s fall national meeting at its Minneapolis headquarters.

Target has opened 23 smaller stores in major cities like Chicago and Philadelphia and has plans to add nine more this year and at least 16 in 2017. Typically taking up less than 50,000 square feet, the smaller stores enable the company to expand into downtown areas where a big-box footprint isn’t possible. The shops also create pickup points for online orders, helping Target compete with Amazon.com Inc.

The stores don’t have the same product selection as a typical Target and are more targeted at the demographics of a specific market. For example, the retailer’s store in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, opening next month, will have a focus on baby and kids merchandise to meet the needs of the area’s plentiful family population, Cornell said.

That’s “unlike our store at the University of Maryland, where there is very little baby, not a lot of toys, and a big focus on beauty and apparel,” he said.

Rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc. abandoned a strategy of opening smaller stores earlier this year, opting instead to focus its attention on its supercenters and grocery-store-sized Neighborhood Markets.   Unlike Target, many of Wal-Mart’s smaller stores were in rural areas.

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