CVS to Close 900 Stores, Convert Others from Retail to Services, as Ecommerce Competitors Gobble up Pharmacy Revenues

Brick & Mortar Meltdown Continues.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

CVS – after a series of acquisitions, the largest pharmacy chain in the US – said that it would close 900 stores over the next three years, and convert many of the remaining stores to selling healthcare services instead of the stuff they now sell, as the profitable prescription drug business is wandering off to competitors on the internet.

CVS is thereby following in the footsteps of Walgreens, which already closed nearly 600 stores in the US over the past two years and bought its way into healthcare services by acquiring a controlling stake in VillageMD for $5.2 billion.

Walgreens closed the stores in order to cut costs to put a stop to the plunge in its earnings. The 600 stores it closed include a few of its 60-plus stores in San Francisco (there’s one every few blocks) where the shift to online pharmacy sales by the dominant healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente has clobbered Walgreens, which ridiculously blamed shoplifting for closing those stores in San Francisco, thereby creating perfect clickbait for the brain-dead global media that without further research or thought regurgitated this nonsense, and thereby covered up the real reasons for Walgreen’s store closures in San Francisco.

Refreshingly, CVS chose not to go that route to explain its store closures – but stuck to reality: As part of its “strategic review of its retail business,” it has evaluated “changes in population, consumer buying patterns, and future health needs,” it said in its press release. It therefore has decided to shift to sales of services and away from sales of goods.

It’s going to be much less of a retailer and much more of a service provider. Let the internet take care of retail.

CVS said it would:

  • Reduce the store density and close 900 stores at a rate of 300 stores per year over the next three years.
  • Convert some of the remaining stores “to offering primary care services,” thereby switching those stores from retailers that sell goods to healthcare service providers.
  • Convert some of the remaining stores to “enhanced versions of HealthHUB locations” that offer health-related services, such as treating common illnesses and chronic conditions, along with telehealth visits, and sell some products such as supplements.
  • Keep some “traditional CVS Pharmacy stores” that sell prescription drugs in addition to healthcare services, and the stuff you find on the shelves and racks in a CVS store.

The store closures will cost around $1.0 billion to $1.2 billion in impairment charges in Q4, CVS said. And while it was at it, it lowered its EPS for the full year of 2021 by about 11%.

Like Walgreens, CVS is getting hit hard by the shift of the profitable prescription drug business to the Internet and the telephone. This is being done directly by various big healthcare providers, such as Kaiser Permanente, by Amazon, by Costco, and by everyone and their dog, by CVS and Walgreens too.

Prescription drugs are light-weight and high-value, and transportation costs don’t matter that much, and the pharmacy operations are already local, and their inventory is already local, and they might as well sell them online and deliver them the next day, and not have to worry about retail operations.

CVS didn’t say how many of its 10,000 or so stores would remain classic CVS retail stores with prescription drug counters, and how many stores would be shifted to service providers.

The writing has been on the wall for years: Shifting the pharmacy business to the internet is the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind, and once customers figure out how easy it is to order this stuff online or by phone, in coordination with their healthcare provider, instead of standing in line at the pharmacy, there’s no going back.

And so the brick-and-mortar meltdown continues. Store closures are on the table again at Macy’s, starting in January, and at many other retailers, despite the most extravagant and historic spike in retail sales to stimulus-pumped consumers, as money-printing hits home.

Enjoy reading WOLF STREET and want to support it? You can donate. I appreciate it immensely. Click on the beer and iced-tea mug to find out how:

Would you like to be notified via email when WOLF STREET publishes a new article? Sign up here.

  103 comments for “CVS to Close 900 Stores, Convert Others from Retail to Services, as Ecommerce Competitors Gobble up Pharmacy Revenues

  1. Robert Hughes says:

    Example. Oregon Kaiser member. In Florida for extended time period. Oregon kaiser pharmacy apparently cannot ship out of state. Needed a reorder. Solution Kaiser has “mid atlantic” pharmacy to apparently solve these kind of issues. Ordered via telephone and two days later arrives by mail. Easy as pie. Even next day service if needed.

  2. Ethan in NoVA says:

    CVS owns insurance company Aetna right?

    Also CVS is planning to start hiring doctors.

    Maybe CVS will become some kind of disruptive health care provider. The USA needs something.

    • Nacho Bigly Libre says:

      Archaic, split brained and lobbyist sponsored regulations are some of the reasons healthcare is so broken and expensive (think yellow cabs).

      We need a marketplace with very low friction (think Uber).

      What if I sign a paper saying I waive the right to sue for malpractice and take up the responsibility of maintaining medical records on my own?

      Of course this is scratching on the surface of just one dimension of this massive problem.

      May be Wolf will make a post about healthcare and we all can brainstorm.

      • MiTurn says:

        “We need a marketplace with very low friction (think Uber).”

        Look up the ‘direct primary care’ for healthcare. I pay my dictor $60 a month (was $50 til I turned 60 years old) for unlimited access to his care as my GP. He does not accept insurance.

        • Cold in the Midwest says:

          Agreed MiTurn. I’ve been using DPC for three years now and would never go back.

        • Motorcycle Guy says:

          Nacho Bigly Libre, MiTurn and Cold in the Midwest,
          I agree with all your comments.
          My mother used to tell me how the Direct Primary Care concept worked during the Great Depression of the 1930s. I’m an advocate for the concept.
          You may want to do a search on Youtube for a 30 minute video titled, “A Strategy for Medical Freedom” by Murray Sabrin.

      • Apple says:

        Malpractice law limits in many states already preclude you from suing, unless you are wealthy or a lawyer.

        In California, the limit is $250,000. Louisiana it’s only $100,000.

        No lawyer would ever take your case.

      • Sit23 says:

        Uber does not survive because it has a better business model than the competition. Financial year after financial year it has shown itself to live off the ever increasing capital provided by commission driven fund managers all around the world.This capital is then partially spent on enriching the original shareholders, eg Travis, and the top executives, and the rest is spent on subsidizing their transport services. In spite of their subsidies, US$7.70 per trip one year, the competition refuse to give in, and their taxi operational growth stalled a couple of years ago. Bad example.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Like Kaiser Permanente? They’re a healthcare provider and insurer all in one. They cover something like 40% of Californians.

      • Max Power says:

        That’s basically the healthcare model in Israel where four such nationwide outfits compete against each other. The Israeli system BTW was developed from the German Krankenkasse model. The system in Israel proved highly effective during the COVID pandemic.

        This is just one of several frameworks used in other countries to provide universal health coverage to their citizens successfully and efficiently – something we in the US haven’t been able to wrap our heads around.

      • Michael Gorback says:

        Kaiser is not immune to lawsuits. Indeed, the fact that they control the care ( y deciding coverage) and employ the doctors DOUBLES their risk exposure.

    • roddy6667 says:

      I see Walmart or Amazon as being the disruptor Their pharmacy prices are already much lower than CVS.

  3. Seneca's cliff says:

    Oxy prescriptions delivered to your doorstep plus porch pirates. What could go wrong?

    • MiTurn says:

      SC, you’re hilarious! Porch pirates…and sometimes drivers (?)

      The package would have to be ‘camouflaged’, as when family member’s silver comes marked as ‘lead weights.’


      • Loren L Rogers says:

        MY silver came as Ball bearings

      • NBay says:

        From working 17 years at the P/O, I can assure you that people who handle packages over and over soon learn what’s in what. That’s what an educated (BA+), trained, equipped, and armed Postal Inspection Service is for. They share intel with FBI, and other gov’t law enforcement agencies very effectively.
        I have seen two busts, heard of several others, and these people DO NOT fool around. Like other agencies, they use stakeouts (lot’s of tiny electronics), and previously busted people as planted informants…just transfer them in.
        Only a fool would even pick up a quarter on the floor, and then pocket it. Custodians are VERY careful, if not outright scared.

        If I HAVE to go online for anything but INFO, like here, I will use the P/O for delivery, like I do with WS donations, and all bills. Luckily, I have a shrunken, but still open, bank branch nearby, and don’t “invest”…..”making money with money” also pisses me off.
        I hope it doesn’t come to that with my only Rx prescription, I am all brick and mortar, and local if possible.

        I don’t consume much at all, so being a Luddite has been easy, so far.

        • NBay says:

          Should have said “High Value” packages. You think that pissed off underpaid packagers don’t tell people, online or elsewhere, what’s in what?

  4. Michael Engel says:

    1) Inflation and WFH deflated commercial RE.
    2) The senate infra, JP & Nancy stimmie will further induce inflation.
    3) Inflation reduce labor cost for the non-unionized labor force, for the most.
    4) Inflation and buyback increased real value of stock and residential prices.
    5) CVS reduce their commercial real estate profile, but increased their digital space.
    6) Pharmacist, doctors and online pickers will make good money, in real terms, but the rest will depend on gov support.
    7) More central banks and foreign entities invested in AAPL, AMZN & CVS than US citizens. The gains, the unrealized wealth, belong to them !!
    8) Crypto/USD, Austria closure and European delta support the dollar.
    9) DX weekly backbone : 95.775 on Jan 19 2015 high // 93.385 Feb 5
    2015 low. DX breached the BB @96.63.
    10) Higher DX is bad for AAPL, AMZN & CVS…
    11) In 2023/4 Case Shiller index might indicate negative rates and revert to the mean.

  5. polistra says:

    The HealthHUB actually sounds a lot like what pharmacies used to do. Pharmacists were the only ‘doctor’ for many people.

  6. Augustus Frost says:

    The formula for retailers seems to be to over expand the geographic foot print to show “growth” no matter how little sense it makes economically. Then at some point, take a non-cash restructuring charge which is excluded from adjusted GAAP earnings and hope nobody notices that they screwed up since modern finance ignores the balance sheet most of the time.

    • Old School says:

      I was going to comment yesterday on Dollar General running successful brick and mortar, but did not and then I saw an article about it last night.

      DG still rolling out stores to grow at about 20% annually. Would have been a good stock bet a decade ago. It’s the convenience store model. Don’t compete with on-line which has lower cost structure.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Old School,

        Wait a minute. Despite opening all these new stores, and despite inflation, revenues at Dollar General in the quarter through July 31 dropped 0.4% from the same period last year. They had a Covid boom going on last year, but that’s over now.

        It will announce its Q3 earnings on Dec 2, so you can see if revenues increased yoy. If revenues don’t increase significantly yoy, despite new stores and despite inflation, it means that its growth model is out the window.

        • Old School says:

          I will stick by story. Three year growth rate revenue 16%, earnings 23% (at least that is what Guru focus is showing). Maybe it’s all over it I don’t know. Look at 10 year data. Pretty impressive, but it’s basically rolling out so many new stores that is fueling the growth.

  7. NoPrep says:

    I see large walk in, or fast appointment, health clinics all over, where I am (southern New England). Places like Compass Medical. It is places like this are where people from the over age 55 communities and retirees go, if they are just doing regular things, or getting flu or Covid jabs, or epidurals for back problems etc, and aren’t sick enough to need a hospital. They have no reason to change what they do. there really a growth market for these “health hubs”, in b&m pharmacies like CVS as well? I’m skeptical. There’s a limit to how much overall routine medical care people want or need, that isn’t happening already as people live now.

    • Motorcycle Guy says:

      One area their new concepts may see success if if the can do walk in Covid testing and have the results in 24 hours or less for travel purposes. Currently they offer drive through testing but they say it could be two to three days to get the results. My doctor gave me a script for an RT PCR test on a Monday and the lab had the results 24 hours later for a flight on Wednesday.

      • roddy6667 says:

        I got a Rapid COVID test at CVS 2 days ago. Appointment online, results is 20 minutes to your phone or email.

  8. masked ghost says:

    When I went in for the annual review of insurance programs, my independent agent found another provider. By getting prescriptions by mail, I can save about $1500 a year.

    Now that it looks like they will be getting rid of that crooked Post Master appointed by that former guy, hopefully the USPS will improve it’s service .

    • roddy6667 says:

      Go to the Amazon website and check thie prices. Also, Walmart. For each separate, check apps like GoodRx. Sometimes they are cheaper than your health insurance.

  9. Nick Kelly says:

    Interesting bit on CBC site where undercovers went to pharmacies to ask about homeopathic ‘remedies’. In a number of them the pharmacist said they were either good or ok for symptoms. As the piece explains they are neither and are just flavored water. A lot of the shoppers had them confused with herbal remedies which good or bad usually have at least an active ingredient. The ingredient in aspirin was discovered being used as herbal pain killer.

    Homeopathy is based on a 17 th century idea that the LESS of a ingredient, the more potent. It is ‘complete scientific nonsense’ and it is amazing that a licensed medical business with a trained health care pro is involved. However the ‘remedies’ will be easy and cheap to prepare, i.e., bottle, and they are profitable.

    • Paulo says:

      I read that article as well, Nick. It is almost akin to drug stores selling smokes, which they certainly used to do. An additional problem are consumers self diagnosing with Dr Google, then self medicating with this crap. I have a friend who does this and takes a variety of compounds and supplements. Funny thing is, his health never seems to improve. Oh well, better than dosing up at the feed store.

      I always did think it was weird when big chain drug stores started selling tuna, cookies, and whatever else they could dream up. That is when you knew they had a desperate business plan.

      • Anthony A. says:

        I worked at a private drug store owned by a Jewish guy in Connecticut years ago. I worked the retail counter and we sold everything…booze, smokes, cigars, cosmetics, nick knacks, etc. That was a fun time in my life. No bullet proof cage at that time, though.

        Where did all the trust and honesty go?

        • roddy6667 says:

          When I was a kid in the Fifties, the local drugstore in Broad Brook, CT (Pigeon’s Pharmacy), sold everything. They had a soda fountain. They sold cigarettes, liquor, and even handguns.

      • Phil says:

        You mean horse dewormer doesn’t cure Covid? Color me stupified.
        Time to go relax in a borax soak.

        • Old school says:

          1. Nearly all human pharmaceuticals are subsequently formulated for veterinarian use.

          2. It is impossible to take a generic drug through the FDA process and get it approved for a new application. You can’t get a return on the billion dollar approval process selling a generic for 10 cent per pill.

          3. FDA is nearly captured by Pfizer.

          4. You can be sure any FDA approved product will be expensive to it goes generic

    • Masked Ghost says:

      The active ingredient in aspirin was discovered in willow tree bark, which was being used as a herbal pain killer…

      As for Homeopathy, well, never underestimate the power of suggestion.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The placebo effect is very effective. That is scientifically proven. The human brain is an amazing thing.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        Very true Wolf:
        Grandpa claimed he cured himself of cancer in the early 1920s by using, “Dr. Arnold Ehret’s Mucusless Diet Healing System,” apparently a popular concept at that time.
        Heard the same story from another elderly guy about 20 years ago; he may still be alive he looked so healthy in his early 70s.
        Like certain other folks focused on ”diet as pharmacy” etc., the Ehret fans don’t hesitate to tell you how wonderful it is.
        At the moment, I am convinced of the healing powers of margarita(s)!!!

        • NBay says:

          Mucus less? (not that I disagree AT ALL with a good diet or the power of placebo)

          Mucus is the FIRST line of defense in many internal places where our bodies contact the outside world….nose, lungs, gut. Long ago I began swallowing it after coughing or snorting it up.
          Why waste chemicals in the perfect proportions to make more?

          Have you ever seen an animal spit?

    • Mike says:

      I call homeopathy the air guitar of medicine…

    • Nacho Bigly Libre says:

      Homeopathy is covered by many (almost all?) insurers in USA.

      I read the news report. It sounds more of a attack on Homeopathy. These undercovers talked to 10 pharmacists and 6 of them recommended a product. What’s the crime here? Did they sell contraband medications? Illegal drugs? Took bribes? Broke any laws?

      Bar for ‘investigative journalism’ has fallen really low.

      • Nick Kelly says:

        It IS an attack on homeopathy, which is nonsense.

        ‘What’s the crime here?’ There isn’t one, nor is one alleged.
        What is demonstrated on its face is that govt licensed health care professionals are involved in the marketing of magic, with no reference to science. The puzzle is that this isn’t a crime. The fat
        content of ground beef. lean or regular, is more regulated than these ‘medicines’.

        ‘Illegal drugs?’ There is no allegation of illegal or contraband drugs. The allegation is the sale of no drugs, no active ingredient.

        Should it be against the law for televangelists like Popoff to proclaim Miracle Water or Paula White to hawk her Miracle Blanket? No. They aren’t graduates and members of a government certified health care profession.

        When the consumer deals with a regulated profession he is entitled to certain standards, without having to do his own amateur investigation.

        • Nacho Bigly Libre says:

          We might not agree and I am not familiar with the rules in Canada.

          The way I see it:

          – investigation showed no indication that the pharmacists were pushed by the company to make those recommendations

          – there was no indication pharmacists were pushing customers to purchase the product

          – seemed that the undercovers asked the pharmacist for a recommendation and they got one. This is very common here and the recommendation is always taken with a grain of salt

          – if real medical advice was necessary, undercovers could have gone to a doctor licensed to prescribe medicine. After all I heard healthcare is free in Canada.

    • NBay says:

      One of the MANY reasons I quit Pharmacy School at Oregon State after the first year. Only 1% (back then, 78-9) got to be hospital pharmacists, but I went to a local hospital and used my student I.D to get to talk to them. All three had a good laugh and said, “Go into Management”.

      • NBay says:

        The bark of some tree found in Oregon (probably elsewhere, too) was called Cascara Sagrada by Spanish explorers. I believe it is still used as a pretty strong OTC or maybe Rx laxative…again, just 78-9 info.

        Anyway, my OSU pharmacy Prof quipped, “Makes you wonder what their diet was, no?”

        • NBay says:

          Just to clarify, the first sentence was in response to Nick’s first comment.

          The rest is just anecdotes…..and I could tell many, many more about how a smart, well trained, young eager science professional becomes just a helpless cog in the corporate Big Pharma/Rx/OTC JUNK Drug Sales/Managed Health Care/Insurance/Testing money extracting mostly BS machine….including the docs….but the money IS good.

  10. boikin says:

    I wonder how much of CVS’s own online business is also driving this. I have been getting my prescriptions from CVS for what seems like forever but have not been in a store since they moved everything online a few years back. there online system is pretty good it sends you txt reminders and just click a few buttons and your done. So much easier then going into to store and/or calling and then just waiting a lot.

  11. El Katz says:

    Unless they work for a formulary pharmacy, it sounds like the pharmacist’s degree has a target on it’s back.

    I would imagine that there are few people that actually read the documents included in the packaging with their online pharmacy order. In the “olden days”, the pharmacist was key to making sure that a patient didn’t mix incompatible drugs. With people going to multiple pharmacies – brick and mortar as well as mail order – with different prescribers, it’s not beyond the imagination that someone could inadvertently poison themselves.

    I’d bet that there’s more than one person on this site that has taken tylenol for a hangover……

    • VintageVNvet says:

      A while back there was a report from a” hospital association” that approx. 125K people died in USA every year from ”medical errors”.
      A ”doctor’s association” said in response that the number was likely closer to 400K.
      Both reports seemed to have disappeared quickly???

      • NBay says:

        No wonder managed health care/hospitals insist on constantly changing their own “billing codes”……aside from it being a game they play with insurance companies.

        It also drives the Ambulance Chasers nuts.

        Iatrogenic is the word, IIRC.

    • Harvey Mushman says:

      “I’d bet that there’s more than one person on this site that has taken tylenol for a hangover……”

      When I was young and dumb I used to take vitamin B12 before a night of many beers. And yes I believe that I took Tylenol for a hangover. Now that I am old and dumb, I enjoy the beers and don’t drink so many . No more hangover!

    • NBay says:

      Could be Katz.

      Even though we were taught extremely accurate compounding, using glass enclosed beam balances and made everything from IV solutions to salves, elixirs, suppositorys, etc, we were told that except for hospital pharmacists working with a doc with an idea, or a few Dermatologists, that most all of us would be in the back of Fred Meyer (the big drug store chain in OR then) “taking them out of big ones and putting them in little ones.”
      I think the “techs” do that now.

      There was a Pharmacy specialty that existed back then that consisted of going around to care homes and looking at charts. The Docs just prescribe and forget it, the nurses just follow orders, and the poor patient….well……..

      Best jobs now are with Big Pharma, extra good $$$ if one can speak well and really sling the Bio-BS……and has law degree.

      Ex: Participating in a “scientific” study’s “end point ADJUDICATION” for “efficacy” determination.

  12. Poor like you says:

    I wanna know how much money PCR and Antigen test manufacturers are making.

  13. Brent says:


    “Robotic pharmacist fills 350,000 doses of medication without mistakes”

    “RescueDose, an Israeli medical device company, has developed a robot that automatically dispenses medication to patients, cutting down on human error that can occur when liquid medications are prepared.”

    One RescueDose robot in central warehouse mixing powders & liquids and 1000’s heavily protected dispensaries all over the country a la Amazon locker.

    • NBay says:


      Just look up “The Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology”
      if you want to tell hundreds more stories like that.

      mRNA processing machines are especially hot, lately, for obvious reasons……BUT ESPECIALLY for later on for producing many new miracle DRUGS rather than vaccines.

      The SSRI craze began with Prozac, and everyone made tons of money on neurotransmitter games, but they recently had to fight to get SSRI “withdrawal” changed to “discontinuation”, at medical schools, etc.

      Meds for the “embarrassing” shaking caused by them (Tardive Dyskinesia) are now being advertised on TV, so you can stay on them, though, which is nice to know……..

      • NBay says:

        I’m telling’ ya Wolf, some of these more “miraculous” drugs and cures are going to have to be called “Hedonistic”, and pretty damned soon, or this “Medical” bunch is going to really play hell with the CPI.

        I guess “vaccine” put me in moderation, or maybe too many posts, but this is all on topic and in my wheelhouse, and an older article few read. Sorry for extra hassle.

  14. Erich says:

    Two quick thoughts on this.

    My health insurance pushed us to using mail order pharmacies years ago. In our case it’s Express Scripts which offers a 90 day supply. They offer 5 day delivery for free and next day if you want to pay for it. The insurer will only pay for a 21 day supply if we go to a drug store like CVS.

    As far as getting into the health care out patient business that might be tougher than they think. Here in north Texas there’s places like Care Now “Doc in the Box” everywhere already. Good luck on that front.

  15. Michael Engel says:

    1) Delta is spreading globally. It shutdown Austria.
    2) If delta boomeranged to China, China will shutdown. With no fault
    of their own China will create shortages. The meltdown cont.
    3) We will enter a war zone economy : the upper echelon thrive,
    the rest starve.
    4) The house approved an expensive “booster”. It’s expensive. Hopefully we will never use it.
    5) But if it will happen, raising rates wouldn’t help.

    • Apple says:

      Maybe it’s time to stop turning corn into fuel?

    • Sit23 says:

      Delta shut down nothing. Government reaction shut down everything.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Michael Gorback,

      “We’re missing a piece of the puzzle. I don’t know what it is, but if quarantine, masks, vaccines and social distancing don’t work, there’s something wrong.”

      You’re just not looking at the data. There is nothing missing except cooperation by the people. The things you name work, and you do them in series. This is well known. Each provides a layer of protection, and combined, they provide excellent protection.

      But lots of people aren’t wearing masks, don’t stick to social distancing guidelines, and aren’t getting vaccinated. Simple as that.

      If 30% of the population isn’t vaccinated and refuses to wear masks when in close proximity to others, within that 30%, you’re going to get lots of cases, hospitalizations, and lots of deaths.

      Of the 41 police officers suspended on Nov 1 from the San Francisco Police Department for violating the vaccination requirement (out of something like 2,800 police officers that conformed to the requirements), one of them already died of Covid a little over a week ago. By all accounts a good guy who believed the BS he’d read on the internet and died for it.

      From California:

      Cases (lab test confirmed), week ending Nov 6:
      Unvaccinated per million: 40.2 people
      Vaccinated per million: 5.8 people

      From October 31, 2021 to November 6, 2021, unvaccinated people were 6.9 times more likely to get COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people.

      Hospitalizations, week ending Oct 30:
      Unvaccinated per million: 25.3 people
      Vaccinated per millions: 2.1

      Deaths, week ending Oct 23:
      Unvaccinated deaths per million, 6.6 people
      Vaccinated deaths per million: 0.4 people

      In the week from October 17, 2021 to October 23, 2021, unvaccinated people were 16.5 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people.

      • Old School says:

        Good article about Africa having the best numbers with Covid. From what I recall they are doing well because of natural advantages mainly young age, weather and not having nursing home culture.

  16. KurtZ says:


    You keep saying that moving all this drug-selling stuff to the internet is a no-brainer. But it exposes the massive contradiction here in the American system – Commercial Real Estate versus the Internet.

    You will admit that this country has been driven by Real Estate Development since George Washington and his Dismal Swamp speculation ( that never worked in his lifetime and left him bankrupt ) Manifest Destiny, ‘Go West, young man’, and whatever land schemes we have put together over the last four hundred years, that now stretches from sea to shining sea.

    Our American ‘Wealth’, save that industrial blip after WWII, was based on real estate.

    Why do you think the Fed buys Billions of CMBSs monthly? They are safeguarding the underlying value of our nation and the ruling families that own most of it.

    America has twice as much commercial real estate square footage as the next country. Maybe twice too much it seems.

    So now comes along this new infrastructure, the Internet, to challenge the brick-and-mortar set-up. Perhaps you are right that low-cost of delivery is inconsequential, that the gig-working schlubs who pee in bottles, and have to run red lights, to make their quotas for Amazon on deliveries are something that should be taken for the new normal.

    But you see that massive internal contradiction in this battle? The new e-commerce American system scavenging off the bones of the dying brick-and-mortar industry.

    How will these roads get paid for in the future when most of the B&O taxes will be gone with the storefronts all shut down? Dont ask Amazon to pay its taxes to make up for it cuz you know the answer to that.

    What if those Bond markets crash? Just back to a level, say 2000?

    I predict E-Commerce will be one of the big forces that tears this American Experiment apart.

    • joe2 says:

      Au Contraire mon ami. All Americans will be on-line in the Meta verse along with E-commerce, but buying digital stuff like digital sneakers and digital skinny-as-you-wanna-be jeans for your avatar to wear on-line. No supply chain problems there. Just ask the kid that made over $3M selling custom digital sneakers for on-line wear.

    • Old School says:

      That’s easy. Use the inflation tax and make paving the road in front of your house a Federal project. Fed’s already figured that out.

    • Nick Kelly says:

      ‘America has twice as much commercial real estate square footage as the next country.’

      More like 4 times for EU.

  17. Joe Saba says:

    gotta love it
    I remember 2004-2009 were walgreens and CVS were building new stores on every block
    then they would sell the new stores with 75 year leases with step ups of course for top $$
    then in certain areas you’d see new store boarded up (lease still valid)
    but I wonder how long before all this PRIME REAL ESTATE goes back to woke investors via bankruptcy

    • QQQBall says:

      Hey Joe,

      Prolly NOT 75-year leases. Typically 20-year base term with fixed lease rate increase every 5 or 10 years and rolling 10-year or longer options with increase to market lease rate with the existing rate being a floor, or fixed rate increases. Not all store locations are sale-leaseback arrangements. A nearby WGS, now closed, was actually on a ground lease and some are almost certainly build-to-suits.

    • Rowen says:

      In my red-hot area, we’ve still got boarded up Eckerd’s and Rite-Aid’s that were shuttered after acquisitions by the big boys. Asking prices are nuts.

  18. Michael Wied says:

    CVS & Walgreens remind me of F.W. Woolworth 5 &10 selling everything but drugs. Once they come to believe that a soda fountain is sure road to profits the circle will be complete

  19. Wolf Richter says:

    Ed C,

    “my own eyes”??? BS. You don’t even live in California. It’s what you saw on Zero Hedge and YouTube and Fox, not in San Francisco.

    • Paul Chaffee says:

      Are you saying the videos showing the shop lifters were fake?

      • Wolf Richter says:

        A couple of videos in a city of 800,000 people! spread over a couple of years. I’ve seen the same thing in Tulsa in person, but that video didn’t go viral. It happens in Miami, it happens in Dallas, it happens everywhere, because the internet makes this activity profitable because this stuff gets sold on Amazon. But the videos only go viral if it happens in San Francisco. Do you see how nuts this is? Every time the name “San Francisco” shows up, these people that have never been to SF and that hate SF come out of the woodwork to spread their BS. Go spread that shit on Twitter and Fox, not my site.

    • Shiloh1 says:

      For years I saw the Walgreens across Wacker Drive from the Willis Tower get plundered in broad daylight. Don’t think it was organized crime though, with jugs of Tide walking out most often.

    • Buddhahacker says:

      Actually, I’ve witnessed flash mobs stealing at Walgreens in both Chicago and San Francisco. The Chicago event actually sent a couple folks to the hospital since they pushed them down the escalator as they were running away. Pretty disturbing and disappointing. I’m certain that this was not the primary reason for the closures but to discount it out of hand is BS as well. I expect more from you.

    • Jeff says:

      Don’t lump zerohedge in with Fox or YouTube. Zerohedge is one of the top financial websites out there.

      With that said theft is a major problem in the Bay area. The USA is in decline and that is on full display in California. Yes consumer patterns are changing but we cannot write off the rising trends in theft just because it’s painful to acknowledge.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        ZH publishes everything, from the best most arcane financial info that you cannot find anywhere else, which few people click on, to the worst horrid ignorant clickbait BS unrelated to finance that lots of people click on. Their most clicked-on articles are the worst, and their least clicked-on articles are the best. I go to ZH every day. But you have to know what to ignore.

        The US is not in decline, nor is California. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t huge problems everywhere that need to be addressed. But trying to spread fake ignorant BS doesn’t help deal with the real problems, and I don’t allow people to abuse my site for that.

  20. joe2 says:

    I can get 90 days of pills on-line but only 30 days at the physical pharmacy. It seems to be due to the insurance companies for some nefarious reason. That’s why I have the doctors order on-line with auto-refill. It is crazy to pickup medicine 3 times a month at different dates when prescriptions are ready and “approved” by the insurance company for me, wife, dog. And when you switch insurance companies, you start from scratch.

    And then you credit card gets hacked and replaced and all your on-file payments bounce. They try to call you but I never answer unrecognized numbers because 90% of my calls are robo. So you have to call everyone with a new number.

    I can tell a lot of retail outlets are under the gun because I get loads of “customer satisfaction” emails and calls. I try to help them out. Looks like a competition to see which locations do not get shut down.

    Ain’t modern life grand?

  21. Michael Engel says:

    1) CVS opened stores in every corner of major cities in order to
    block Walgreen and small mom & pop pharmacies. Landlords salivated.
    2) Walgreen counter attacked with their own zones.
    3) The smaller mom & pop are long gone., but the large brick & mortar supermarkets moved in.
    4) Like criminal gangs they dominated their own zones.
    5) Both were fighting each other, bleeding for years, but when covid struck they declared a ceasefire, retreat positions and went digital.

  22. Michael Engel says:

    1) When u wake up in the morning drink a cup of water.
    2) After fruits and before green veggies go pink/ red.
    4) Dump inside an Instant Pot (on sale for $59 in Walmart) : pumpkins, red and sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, red pepper and celery.
    5) When the soup ready, add organic spinach and rice to the mix.
    6) No fat, no meat, no pharma.

    • Michael Gorback says:

      I love the smell of burning superstition in the morning..

      Bury a dead chicken at a cross road at midnight during a full moon.

      Then dance in a circle around the site three times while chanting a Hail Mary each time.

      Then decapitate a small rodent and drip the blood over the burial site.

      Deflower a virgin to seal the deal with Satan.

      This will cure any disease and prevent all the rest. That’s how I have managed to live 234 years.

    • GrassRanger says:

      Sounds like gruel to me.

    • NBay says:

      A Biology Chartist!….every gym should hire one.

    • Nick Kelly says:

      A lot of folks on yr case ME but I agree with you. The longest living in developed world were older Japanese. Not veggies or vegan but very low animal fat etc. Prob still best but NA diet, Mc D etc., creeps in. US has obesity epidemic. Mc D should get into pharma, sell Tums with B Mac.

      • NBay says:

        “….sell Tums with B Mac.”

        Taking OTC meds is just as stupid as eating fast food, if not MUCH more so.

        Hope that was just a joke, as was my ME post.

  23. George Wood says:

    Years ago, I took customer service calls for Humana during their yearly enrollment push. They were just getting started in the online pharmacy business and were selling the program to all their Humana insurance customers.

    They had exactly TWO full time pharmacists on staff for the entire operation. Apparently, that is all that is required by law.
    I am pretty sure all retail outfits require a full time pharmacists on site at all times. It was literally impossible to talk with a real pharmacist at Humana.

    You didn’t even need to be a pharmacy assistant to take calls.
    The enrollment period was like six weeks or something.
    New hire CSR’s like me were stumbling through scripts while trying to navigate complex medical computer programs after one week of training. Humana could offer lower cost prescriptions on certain generic medications, Metformin etc. Diabetic, pens, needles, insulin, meters, what a mess and no pharmacist to be found anywhere

    If a quick hire CSR messes up your requests, prescription transfer, refill etc, you can’t just run down to Walmart to get the prescription filled. The prescription has to be transferred back to the retail pharmacy or a new prescription needs to be issued by the prescribing doctor.

    • roddy6667 says:

      Most of the people behind the counter in any busy CVS or Walgreens are only pharmacy techs, not pharmacists. They do most of the work of filling prescriptions.

  24. George Wood says:

    It was another fine day at Fedex.

    After dragging my carts down a ramp and outside, I loaded my packages into a Penske van.

    My morning manifest listed less that 100 packages to be delivered.
    I returned to the station with 2 packages that were not on my route.

    To complete my end of day reconciliation, I manually recorded 20 packages as “not on my van”.

  25. Buddhahacker says:

    The bigger question here is what is going to happen to all of the retail workers who are getting laid off and don’t have the skills for higher end jobs?

    I’m also seeing automation starting to decimate the well paid “knowledge worker” positions in financial industries including insurance and others. Some people I know have found jobs in less automated firms but many had to settle for low paying retail and service jobs. Said and concerning.

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      Buddha-…’starting’? It’s now approaching it’s second decade. We’re just nearer to a PNR on human numbers vs. this reality-how the non-vanishing unemployed population will adjust to adapt is a very uncomfortable and generally avoided question (dress rehearsal in the ’30’s)…

      may we all find a better day.

  26. Ben says:

    Amazing number of comments on this site about CVS and drugs. Fortunately i am 65 years old and drug free not the healthiest because i am old and won’t live forever.
    Maybe the drug companies earnings could shrink if we reduced the number of drugs we take?

    • Old School says:

      My grandfather probably never took more than 20 pills in his life and lived to be a few days shy of 100. His sister lived to 104. Sometimes it is genetics.

      • Michael Gorback says:

        If you drink a glass of water every morning for 100 years you will live to be 100 years old.

        • Anthony A. says:

          Don’t forget to add the periodic rodent beheading and the virgin thing.

        • NBay says:

          Sez the “good doctor” who only listened to the detail/Pharma folks, and just prescribed away, and spent his study time learning investment and other ways a doc could get richer.

          Like you said, docs just aren’t paid enough for your/their “needed” lifestyles. (Twice the next closest country, last I checked)

  27. Island Teal says:

    Good article. After reading through all the comments I’m amazed how difficult it is for some to get thier Rx. Personally I’ve got 4 scripts from 2 different Dr filled every 90 days scheduled together on txt alert. Make pick up from local QFC (Kroger).
    Still have a real live Pharmacist to talk with if necessary. Easy peasy 😅😅

  28. Marty Milner says:

    If you remember the chatter prior to Covid America was “overstored” by about 17,000 units. This attrition is just continuing with current comp indicating the locations worth holding on to. Apple and Best Buy are also eying entry into health care. There are overlapping bubbles between commercial real estate and retail housing. Think back to how the rust belt was formed. The American workforce is now mobile again. My take: A #GreatWorkerMigration is about to unfold as families restructure their financial futures. Banks and landlords will in up with depreciating OREOs on their books.

  29. Anthony A. says:

    Once a quarter or so, I deliver some lady’s Express Scripps pill package that the USPS cannot seem to get in her mailbox which is 2 miles from mine. Once in a while, she delivers some of my mail. Gotta love the Post Office efficiency around here.

    Because of this reliability, we pick up our prescriptions at the local Walmart 1.3 miles away.

  30. Michael Gorback says:

    The big pharmacies are suffering from the same problem as everyone else: ot enough employees.

    I spent over an hour on the phone with Walgreens yesterday, mostly listening to muzak. They had insisted that I call them to discuss a prescription. I tried every option on the phone tree, including calling and requesting to speak to the store manager. Left messages too. No reply despite this being a 24 hour Walgreens

    This morning I managed to speak to the pharmacist. She said they were understaffed. I told her that my patient with a heart valve replacement would not appreciate complications or death for that reason. She asked me for the prescription without any discussion.

    Thanks for wasting my time Walgreens. None of these pharmacies are worth crap. If you can, find a mom and pop pharmacy and use them. They are real pharmacists, not corporate lick-and-stick drones.

    • Old School says:

      Doctors don’t have the best reputation about not making people wait. I always think if I was in the service business and a doctor came in I would let him sit in the waiting room an hour and see how he likes it.

    • NBay says:

      “they had insisted I call them to discuss prescription”. BS and you know it.

      And nice cherry picked example boosting your “wisdom” and their prompt obedient response to it.

  31. josap says:

    I pick up my scrips at an Osco, which I can walk to.

    There is also a Walgreens on the other corner. There are always people waiting in line, sitting waiting, and shopping while waiting for medications. The pharmacy employees are running around like mad people.

    Osco might have one person in line in front of me. If I’m getting a new medication the pharmacist comes over to see if I have any questions or makes sure I know to take it at a certain time of day. I know they cross-check my meds. They know me by sight.

    My insurance co would like me to use them for my medications. Not going to happen. The few dollars of co-pay is well worth a real pharmacist who knows me.

    My Dr office also would like me to use their in-house service. They will deliver my meds, no charge. Co-pay will be the same. Not going to happen.

    Amazon would be happy to have me as a drug customer too.

    Everyone wants to be my dealer. LOL

Comments are closed.