Understanding the Expanding Business of 'Well'


Attendees at the NACDS Total Store Expo in Boston had a chance to hear about the changing landscape of wellness, in a presentation titled “How To Get Your Share of the Big Business of WELL,” presented by representatives from WSL Strategic Retail.

Attendees at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores' 2019 NACDS Total Store Expo in Boston had a chance to hear about the changing landscape of wellness, in a Saturday presentation by representatives from WSL Strategic Retail.

Wendy Liebmann, founder and CEO of WSL, emphasized that the lifestyle, beauty, and health care industries are all colliding, and retailers must understand their shoppers’ needs in order to provide the best services and care.

As Generation Z grows up and becomes increasingly involved in the consumer market, they are the drivers of this new industry change, according to the presentation. In the United States, 80% of consumers responding to a survey say they are in good health despite the fact that 87% are managing condition. Over half also said that mental wellbeing impacts their physical wellbeing, and that looking better makes them feel healthier.

While expecting more from their products and services, Liebmann said consumers are also expecting their shopping to be more convenient and financially accessible. Over half of respondents—58%—said that getting their shopping done quickly allows them to have more time for other activities, such as socializing and hobbies.

Studies also found, however, that stress is the No. 1 barrier to a healthy life, according to 45% of respondents. Like most of the data presented, this number was even higher among Generation Z respondents, at 63%.

These concerns about overall mental, physical, and emotional health translate into consumers’ purchasing habits, Liebmann said. People expect every product and service they buy to help them be well.

“We’ve gone from sick care, to well care, to what is now actually a broad social movement,” she added.

In order to keep up with the change, retailers are embracing a vertical integration of total health care—beauty products, mental wellness, nutrition supplements, and everything else that consumers expect to meet their health care goals.

Some grocery stores are partnering with fitness centers to provide well-rounded physical health programs, while big box stores, such as Target, are embracing display spaces for wellness products, such as Quip toothbrushes or family DNA kits.

Ultimately, consumers want to know that the places they shop truly care about their overall health, not simply one aspect of it. People are more willing to spend money if the products will really improve and maintain the new, holistic idea of health.

In order to better understand consumers’ expectations, Liebmann said WSL has begun studying the key performance indicators for many large stores. The majority are mediocre, she said, scoring between 30-60. Kroger, for instance, scored a 45 out of 100, while CVS scored a 43. Ensuring that pharmacists, salespeople, and other employees are knowledgeable about products, their uses, and consumers’ needs is the best way to improve these scores, Liebmann said.

Understanding how shoppers live their lives is vital to offering the care and opportunities that they want, and broadening the current understanding of wellness is the first step.

“It’s not about wellness, not wellbeing, but this sense of well,” Liebmann concluded.


Liebmann W. How To Get Your Share of the Big Business of WELL. Presented at: NACDS Total Store Expo; Boston, MA; August 24-26, 2019. https://tse.nacds.org/schedule/. Accessed August 26, 2019.

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