CVS Ditches Tanning Oil, Hides The Candy

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

We all refer to chains like CVS and Walgreens as “drugstores,” but they also sell everything from makeup to school supplies to snacks. However, CVS has been quietly revising its inventory and store layout to remove or deemphasize some items that are making customers less healthy.

CVS made a big splash in 2014 when it decided to remove tobacco products, but the Wall Street Journal reports that the retailer has been making less obvious moves, like its decision to stop selling tanning oils or sunscreens with an SPF under 15. These products do little to nothing to prevent skin cancer.

Foods containing trans fats are next, with the chain removing them a year before a nationwide ban is set to go into effect.

Beyond the trans-fat ban, CVS is aiming to make its food offerings healthier in general. A new format that’s now in a few test stores and will roll out nationwide next year puts pretzels, nuts, and dried fruit where the candy and cookies once were, and moves the candy and cookies closer to the middle of the store.

Candy and gum will still be impulse items near the checkout, but you’ll have to go hunting for larger packages of these products. Some soda in the beverage case will give way to water and juices.

“We are giving more healthy-choice options and making sure the customer can find them,” the chief merchant at CVS told the WSJ.

Walgreens, meanwhile, is leaving the choice up to consumers, while rewarding them for making healthier selections through the chain’s customer loyalty program. Stores sell tobacco products, but no longer display them as prominently. Walgreens is adding more healthy snack options while keeping candy and cookies at the front of the store.

“How do you still give customers the choice and not tell them what is good for them, but help them make healthier choices?” the co-operating chief for Walgreens Boots Alliance asked the WSJ in an interview. “There’s a level of making things available so it’s the customer’s choice, and there’s a level of incentivizing the customer.”

Which model will win out? Maybe it doesn’t matter in the end: The retail business may take up most of the store’s square footage, but store sales are an ever-decreasing portion of drugstore chains’ income.