Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published August 11, 2014 at 2:07 PM | Page modified August 11, 2014 at 6:07 PM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments
  • Print

CVS starts Pacific Northwest push with Renton store

Drugstore giant CVS opens its first store in the region, increasing competition for both national chains and local stalwart Bartell Drugs. Executives say the Pacific Northwest is the last major U.S. market where the company didn’t have a presence, until now.


Seattle Times business reporter

advertising

Drugstore giant CVS/pharmacy has just dipped its first toe into Washington state with a 12,500-square-foot store in Renton.

The Pacific Northwest is the last major U.S. market where the Rhode Island-based company was not present, said Hanley Wheeler, the company’s senior vice president of field operations. “We consider it a growth market,” he said in an interview at the store, which had an official ribbon-cutting Monday.

Two more store openings are planned for November in Poulsbo and Burien.

Seattle will see its first store, in Wallingford, next summer. Wheeler said his people are working on finding or developing other locations, so more stores are likely.

The Renton store will also be one of the first CVS locations not to carry tobacco products.

CVS drew headlines and accolades, including from the White House, last February when it said it would quit selling tobacco items despite the $2 billion a year in sales. But it set itself a deadline of Oct. 1 for quitting at existing stores.

CVS is the nation’s second-largest pharmacy chain in the country after Walgreens, which as of June 30 had 134 stores in Washington. Walgreens entered the Puget Sound area in the 1990s.

Rite Aid, another major national chain, also arrived in the 1990s by acquiring Oregon-based ThriftyPayless.

CVS will also face Bartell Drugs, an entrenched local pharmacy chain that’s run by the grandson of its founder and has 62 locations in the Puget Sound region.

But the pie for health-care products seems to be growing, along with baby boomers’ medical needs: Washington’s gross sales for drug and health stores totaled $1.4 billion in the first quarter of 2014, up 8 percent, according to the state Department of Revenue.

In comparison, statewide gross sales for the entire retail industry, which is still challenged by the lingering effects of the financial crisis, grew just 0.8 percent.

CVS’ Wheeler acknowledged the force of local contenders. “It’s a very competitive market,” he said. “Bartell’s is a very strong drugstore competitor and they do a very good job.”

Bartell Drugs, which was founded in 1890 and has 1,700 employees, has eagerly adopted national trends such as opening care clinics within its pharmacies. It has three and is evaluating whether to open more.

It also embraces some of Seattle’s quirkiness: When local folk in South Lake Union said they’d like beer on tap at the drugstore Bartell was opening there, the company set up a growler station. “The first day we opened, there was a line around the block,” said Helen Neville, senior vice president of marketing for Bartell Drugs.

“We believe that we know our customers and neighbors better than anybody else can,” she said. “Because we know the area so well we can spend the time to get those stores right.”

One key advantage of CVS, besides size, is the fact that its parent, CVS Caremark, has a huge pharmacy-benefit management division, which handles prescription benefits for employers. Having a physical location allows people who have a CVS Caremark plan to interact face to face with a CVS pharmacist, said spokesman Michael DeAngelis.

Setting up shop in the remote Pacific Northwest comes with its logistical challenges. There are no stores in Oregon nor Idaho. A team had to be dispatched from Omaha, Neb., to help train the Renton store’s 30 employees, Wheeler said.

He said Renton was the first Washington stop because all things fell into place there, from finding the right piece of land to working with the community and permitting.

At the opening ceremony, Renton Mayor Denis Law said he was “very excited” that “we’re going to be the first city in the state to have a CVS pharmacy.”

Leigh Lacey, of Kent, visited the store Monday with his wife, Nancy. They said they were familiar with the brand because of trips they had made to visit friends in New England.

“I’m glad that they’re here,” Lacey said. “More competition.”

This story contains information from The Seattle Times archivesÁngel González: 206-464-2250 or agonzalez@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @gonzalezseattle



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

Also in Business & Technology

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Bake cookies for a cause

Bake cookies for a cause

Get 23 scrumptious recipes in our "Quintessential Cookies" e-book. One dollar of your $3.95 purchase goes to Fund For The Needy.

Advertising

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►