Walgreens CEO Roz Brewer Talks Digital Strategy, Coronavirus Vaccines

On her first earnings call as chief executive officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance on Wednesday, Roz Brewer talked about the company’s ongoing coronavirus vaccine efforts and its continued push toward omnichannel retailing.

Brewer started the job in mid-March, and is reviewing aspects of the Walgreens business, she told Wall Street analysts on the company’s earnings call.

“I intend to move swiftly and decisively to lead WBA forward. In order to do that, I’ve begun a detailed review of our long-range business plans across the company, as well as how we make investments and allocate capital,” Brewer said.

She said she was encouraged to see that Walgreens has more than 100 million loyalty members in the U.S., and sees the potential to accelerate the company’s digital efforts. 

“It will be one of my priorities,” Brewer said, noting that Walgreens has been working with first-party data and plans to create a customer-centric tech-enabled platform to further the omnichannel experience. “There’s a lot of opportunity that we can see in this space just to monetize, first of all, increased traffic in our stores as we execute vaccines. And then, how do we personalize what we’re learning about our customers and new customers that are coming into the store,” she said.

In beauty, Walgreens executives primarily spotlighted the international business, which saw declines in Boots U.K. that were offset by growth in Germany and Boots Ireland. Flagship health and beauty and convenience retail stores saw a 17 percent decline in sales. In the U.K., online beauty sales have consistently delivered record results, executives said, and No. 7, a Walgreens-owned skin care brand, rolled out into 100 more doors.

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“We have added new on-trend beauty brands and we are attracting new customers to Boots, building on our reputation for stocking cult brands that were once only available from specialist beauty sites,” Walgreens chief financial officer James Kehoe said.

Walgreens’ sales for the quarter ended Feb. 28 were $32.8 billion, a 4.6 percent increase from the prior-year period. Net income was just over $1 billion, compared with $946 million in the prior-year period.

In the U.S., Walgreens has given more than eight million COVID-19 vaccinations so far, executives said on the call.

Asked about a $15 minimum wage, Brewer said there was a “pathway” to get there, and that Walgreens is complying with that regulation in states where it is already mandated. “We’ll continue to do that, and then, over a period of time we’ll apply wages across the U.S.,” she said.

Brewer was also asked about tobacco sales — which competitor CVS stopped selling in 2014. She said it was too early to comment on Walgreens’ plans definitively, but that the company is “committed to health and wellness.”

For more from WWD.com, see: 

Beauty Industry Execs Applaud Walgreens CEO Choice

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