CVS Pharmacy Moves Ahead With 19 Additional Optical Locations

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WOONSOCKET, R.I.—CVS Pharmacy is moving ahead with its rollout of optical departments with the expected opening of 19 additional optical locations this year—more than tripling the five opened in late 2015 – as part of an overall effort to “evolve” its store design and leverage “a deep expertise in health,” as the drugstore chain noted in a recent announcement.

CVS, the retail division of CVS Health (NYSE: CVS), opened five optical departments in a pilot project in the Baltimore-Washington corridor in October 2015, as VMail reported at the time. The company expects to add optical locations this year in parts of five states: Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, a CVS spokeswoman told VMail. She said the expansion begins this summer, but she did not specify the number of new optical locations by specific states.

The drugstore chain also expects to add hearing centers in 28 additional locations this year, a significant increase from the seven hearing centers now open in Texas and Ohio.

The retailer worked with VSP to pilot the first of its five optical departments opened in the Baltimore-Washington market, as VMail reported. The CVS spokeswoman told VMail on Tuesday that in the operations aspect of the new optical departments, CVS is “working with many strategic partners to enable our scale.” 

She added, “VSP is one of our many strategic partners in optical services.”

In response to a query from VMail, a VSP spokesperson said, “CVS Health made a business decision in 2015 to pilot CVS Optical in Maryland. CVS Health, as a long-time VSP Vision Care client, asked us to support them in the five-store, 15-month pilot. Although CVS Health has announced plans to open additional stores in multiple states, it should be noted that none of the stores involved in the expansion will be part of the VSP network,” the spokesperson noted.

As part of a“re-imagined” store redesign, CVS also is expanding its assortment of health and beauty products and “better-for-you” food options, according to its announcement. CVS said it expects the new store design will “enhance the retail customer experience” with a new assortment of healthier food, health-focused products and expanded beauty selections.

“Pharmacy is the heart of our business and our focus on providing care to patients and customers defines everything we do in our stores,” Helena Foulkes, president of CVS Pharmacy and executive vice president of CVS Health, said in the statement. “Our new retail offerings leverage our deep expertise in health to enhance our customers' shopping experience. The same guiding principles that led to the removal of tobacco from our stores extend to our commitment to deliver the most innovative health and beauty solutions."

More than 800 CVS Pharmacy locations feature the new design and product assortment, and more than 3,400 stores have expanded their food and beauty offerings. The latest improvements are designed to drive growth in categories that are “most closely tied to the company's health-focused purpose and expertise,” CVS stated.

“We did a lot of research to understand how to best serve our customers as we began to reimagine our store experience and we found that people are thinking about their health differently and taking a more proactive approach to staying well,” Judy Sansone, a senior vice president and chief merchant, said. “With that in mind, we crafted a new shopping journey, all in the name of better health.”