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In-Store Clinics Address Health…and Beauty

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Julie Gallagher is SN's Center Store editor, covering grocery, beverage and HBC.

Image-conscious supermarkets and drug stores have transformed plain Jane beauty sets by channeling the merchandising acumen applied at high-end cosmetic counters.

Hundreds of beauty advisors can help match shades of department store-quality foundation to skin tone at H-E-B, and just this week Walgreens debuted an interactive skincare experience at its Look Boutiques.

Now beauty services are becoming prescription-based as in-store clinics take a page from cosmetic dermatologists.

While they’re not exactly administering Botox, retail clinics are branching beyond their core set of minor illness treatments, vaccinations and wellness screenings to discuss options for lengthening eyelashes, eliminating unwanted facial hair and lightening freckles, age spots and other skin discolorations. Visits that lead to prescriptions for Latisse, Vaniqa and Lustra — the brand names for the drugs addressing these issues, respectively — are now offered at Target Clinic and H-E-B through 29 leased-space RediClinics.

While the highly targeted treatments may not lead to a huge jump in visits, they are helping to steady cyclical lows, pre- and post- cold and flu season, said Tom Charland, chief executive officer of retail clinic consultancy firm Merchant Medicine.

“The reason clinics are expanding their services is because they have a seasonality issue,” he said. “In the off-season they don’t see anywhere near as many patients and they lose money so that’s why they need to find other services.”

Clinically based weight-loss programs also show promise since Americans think about dropping pounds just as the busy winter months of cold and flu season wind down.

“I like this kind of service because it’s not seasonal, yet it’s complementary since people want to start losing weight as they look forward to summer,” he said.

RediClinics have found success with Weigh Forward — a medically supervised program for lifelong weight management. The 10-week program capitalizes on RediClinic’s nurse practitioners and grocery-store location with counseling on diet/nutrition, behavior modification and weekly meal plans with shopping lists of items that can be purchased in H-E-B stores.

Participants can expect to lose 15 to 20 pounds, but not all new services are aesthetically based.

The Little Clinic, which operates in 80 Kroger, Fry’s and King Soopers stores in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia and Colorado, recently began administering corticosteroid injections for inflammatory conditions such as poison ivy that flare up during the slower summer season.

A diversification of treatments and other options are expected to help retail clinics survive stagnant sales periods until 32 million uninsured Americans seek additional access points for care under the Affordable Care Act.

“The new healthcare environment will ultimately solve the seasonality issue for retail clinics, but until then, it will involve adding services like these,” Charland said.

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