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Buyer Beware: Walgreens prices all over the map

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For Immediate Release: September 5, 2013
Contact: Matt Painter, Change to Win Retail Initiatives, 646.705.3128 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Ben Klein, National Consumers League, 202.207.2832, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

New York, September 5, 2013 –Walgreens (NYSE, NASDAQ: WAG) shoppers could be paying too much depending on which location of the chain they choose, with stores in the same market offering the same products for up to 55 percent more.  A new study of several markets throughout the country finds that price variation across Walgreens locations was up to five times higher than at Rite Aid and two-and-a-half times higher than CVS. The report, released by Change to Win (CtW) Retail Initiatives in partnership with the National Consumers League (NCL), compiles data on a basket of 25 items at 485 CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid locations in Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York City, and Orange County, California.

(Download PDF survey factsheets: national overview, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York City, and Orange County.)

“Certainly consumers expect different chains to offer different deals,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL, the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization. “But price variation within a single chain is a wake-up call for consumers, who don’t tend to shop around and compare within a chain. This is a reminder that caveat emptor – let the buyer beware – applies even within the same chain, where prices may vary depending on where you’re shopping.”

Key findings for all markets surveyed include:

  • Walgreens prices were all over the map.  Walgreens stores in a single market were up to five times more likely than a competitor to charge different prices for the same item.  This price variation was not limited to one or two items; researchers encountered storewide price differences at Walgreens at a rate several times higher than the other chains in most markets.
  • Price differences at Walgreens often meant consumers were paying more.  In every market surveyed, Walgreens had the greatest percentage of products that cost at least 10 percent more than the market’s lowest price.
  • Walgreens had the biggest price differences between its stores.  In all markets surveyed, Walgreens had twice the number of products with a 20 percent or greater price range than did CVS.  Rite Aid had virtually no products with that big of a gap.  Walgreens also had significantly more items with a price range of a dollar or greater.

The study includes several tips for how shoppers can get the best price at drugstore chains. Tips include avoiding Walgreens flagship stores and asking managers about price matching.

“Price variation isn’t fair to consumers, who need their dollars to stretch in a tough economy and deserve to get the best price available, regardless of which Walgreens they happen to walk into,” said Nell Geiser, Research Director of CtW Retail Initiatives.

Since there are no Rite Aid stores in Dallas-Fort Worth, researchers only visited CVS and Walgreens locations in that market.

(Download PDF survey factsheets: national overview, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York City, and Orange County.)

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

About Change to Win Retail Initiatives

Change to Win Retail Initiatives is committed to making retailers more accountable and transparent to all stakeholders.