Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ:WBA) has a new plan to assist its customers with social distancing and help slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, which has already infected at least 82,000 Americans. The company will begin allowing customers to pick up some of its non-prescription items at its drive-thru prescription pick up windows.
Drive-thru services have always been a double-edged sword for Walgreens and other retail pharmacy chains. Given that their bottom lines rely heavily on what they call "front-end" sales -- items like snacks, over-the-counter medicines, and household products --- they'd prefer customers enter their stores, where they'll be more likely to see and purchase such products along with their prescriptions.
During the three months ended Nov. 30, Walgreens' U.S. retail sales were down 2% year over year to $6.4 billion. That works out to around 19% of total revenue recorded during the period.
Now, Walgreens customers can purchase more than 60 front-end products at more than 7,300 pharmacy drive-thrus nationwide, among them cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and baby formula.
Customers don't need to plan ahead and order online before coming to pick up their orders. As long as the drive-thru isn't too busy, Walgreens pharmacy technicians will go and fetch your non-pharmaceutical items while you wait at the window.
If there's already a line of cars waiting for service, though, you'll probably need to take a slow lap around the building before receiving your order.