Walgreens has recently renovated its store in downtown Chicago so that the self-directed shopping experience is severely restricted and the majority of store inventory is hidden at the back. This new store model is intended to “enhance our team members’ and customers’ experiences.”
According to CWBChicago the Walgreens on East Roosevelt Road was temporarily closed for renovations and reopened shortly after Memorial Day. The renovations made were astounding. Instead of aisles and aisles of shelves filled with stock, the store offers only two low-rise shelves that are no taller than five feet, containing “essentials.” The store now offers only two low-rising shelves, no higher than five feet tall, filled with “essentials.”
Labels such as “essential” or “non-essential”, however, can be misleading. According to the outlet’s claims, deodorant is considered “non essential” and placed out of reach for shoppers, while candy, potato chips and other junk foods are neatly displayed in a shelf reserved only for “essentials”.
Walgreens is promoting the new concept store as an easy way to make shopping easier. A sign near a kiosk says, “Let us shop,” while another suggests patrons relax while we do their shopping. Walgreens’ spokesperson said that the store will continue to provide retail products and pharmacy service, but with a “new look and feel” that emphasizes shopping digitally.
Many news outlets, despite the positive spin put out by Walgreens have claimed that the store has been redesigned to prevent theft. The Western Journal stated that “essentials” are just the lowest priced items at the store, which aren’t “typically stolen.” The Daily Caller cited multiple reports to say that the store had been renovated “to combat the rising incidences of shoplifting.”
CWBChicago called the experience of shopping at the store “weird.” Two employees were allegedly monitoring the area in which shoppers could roam free, according to a reporter who visited the store. The reporter tried to buy a Coca-Cola, a non-essential item which had to be obtained from the back of the store. The machine charged too much for the drink, so both clerks intervened before the reporter received the correct amount.
Chicago resident curious about the renovations who lives close to the store claimed that he received an email from company. A copy of an alleged email seen by CWBChicago stated that the “redesigned stores will have the latest e-commerce options to increase customer service and mitigate theft, while increasing safety for both customers and employees” (emphasis included). A Walgreens spokesperson, however, denied that this email was “sent by Walgreens to the customer.”
Whatever Walgreens’ motivations for completely revamping this particular store, Chicago crime remains a serious problem. According to Fox Business the theft rate in Chicago rose by a staggering 19% between 2021 and 2022, despite the fact that crime in the United States spiked the year before during the riots following the death of George Floyd. In the last weekend, alone, 50 people were shot in the city. Ten of these gunshot victims died, including a boy aged 14.