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Retail Innovation|November 09, 2021

The MedMall Delivers the Convenient Healthcare Shoppers/Patients Demand

As stores leave malls and shopper/patients demand more convenient medical care, what could be more convenient than healthcare in the local mall? The Big Business of WELL movement is becoming the anchor in malls across the country, seizing the opportunity presented by empty retail space. WSL runs a temperature check on “MedTail” to help you see the opportunities right around the corner. 

Can Retail Create New Channels Within the Walls of Medtail?

Back in 2020, we wrote about the growth of medical services in retail spaces as healthcare providers emphasized convenient access to care.

Now, nearly two years later and on the other end of a health pandemic, WSL scouts are discovering that “MedTail” is getting a healthy dose of innovation. “MedMalls” are revealing visionary practices and opportunities, some in plain sight for brands and retailers who can see a different path.

What our Scouts are Seeing, and Shoppers are Saying

Among our research-based “MedMall” are opportunities and gaps:

  • In 2017, the struggling Atrium Mall, just outside of Boston, reopened as “Life Time Center,” in recognition of its new tenant, the health-and-fitness company Life Time. Since then, medical tenants followed and today the former home to The Cheesecake Factory and Abercrombie & Fitch is a holistic medical and retail center with a “360-degree approach to health, wellness, rejuvenation and entertainment.” That means gyms, spas, healthy cafes, beauty and shopping at the Life Time store.

  • The vacated Macy’s anchor space in the Meriden Mall in Connecticut was sold to Yale New Haven Health in October 2021, making this the third MedMall venture for Yale New Haven. The convenient location, right off the interstate, is a collaboration through the Smilow Cancer Hospital, the Yale New Haven Heart and Vascular Center and the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. Importantly, it will deliver higher-frequency out-patient services, such as blood drawing and radiology, with more convenient access. Adding to the convenience: the medical center shares mall space with popular retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and H&M. Coming soon: H&R Block. 

  • The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey (one of our Retail Safari® destinations) is a go-to example of a mall integrating wellness retail. Specialty shops like The Zen Store joined mall mainstays Sephora, L’Occitane, Indigo and Nordstrom, all of which feature better-for-you products., Short Hills has also earned the designation of “WELL Health-Safety Rated,” by the International Well Building Institute, which recognizes best-in-class centers for cleaning and sanitization, emergency preparedness and air quality.

  • Walmart is reportedly expanding on its earlier-announced its affordably priced Walmart Health clinics concept, of which there are 20, with plans for broader-service Walmart Healthcare Supercenters. These supercenters – 4,000 are planned by 2029 – will include primary care, lab testing services and, if they duplicate Walmart Health clinic offerings, counseling and fitness. A key difference between the existing Walmart in-store clinics is Walmart sees its Healthcare Supercenters as true medical destinations, not retail stores with the convenience of a clinic. Will some of these Walmart Healthcare Supercenters operate as mall anchors, or near traditional Walmart stores, so customers can conveniently pick up the products they need? We’ll be watching.

  • Back in 2020, we asked if drug stores would return to the mall in big numbers. After all, they already are investing heavily in becoming wellness destinations: CVS in 2019 announced plans to open 1,500 HealthHubs by the end of 2021; and Walgreens is partnering with VillageMD to become the first national pharmacy chain to offer full-service primary care physicians and pharmacists in its stores (600 locations are planned by 2025). So we ask again: Will drug chains return to malls? It seems a likely setting if they want to be where patients go.   

The “MedMall” Approach is Looking Healthy for Providers

Here’s the hitch. While we know easy access healthcare presents big opportunities for retailers, expanding into them has challenges – namely, that the investment requirements of physical locations slows their implementation. Walmart’s Healthcare Supercenters roll out through 2029; Walgreens’ plan with VillageMD stretches into 2025. And CVS’s 1,500 Health Hubs will occupy just a fraction of its locations by the end of 2021. At this pace, MedMalls may outrun these retailers. 

This we do know: 

  • Drug Stores have an opportunity to improve their support of healthy living by aligning with health centers, including back to the mall. 
  • The opportunity for brands could be a new channel based on “phygital” locations within the MedMall anchors. Today 36% of shoppers make unplanned health or wellness product purchases wherever they happen to be, which could include a MedMall health center.

WSL Strategic Retail is on the pulse of shopper sentiment every day, and tracking it to what retailers are doing. Our members can learn more about the Big Business of WELL, and explore innovative examples in our Retail Safaris®, at our dedicated Shopper Insights page.

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