Why Duane Reade Renovated Its Image

Duane Reade this week introduced an exclusive line of food and beverage products dubbed DR Delish. The line currently includes 25 products, such as baked potato crisps and raisin oatmeal cookies. The drugstore chain, which has 256 locations in metropolitan New York, expects the total number of offerings to grow to 100 or more by Christmas. The move is part of Duane Reade’s overall strategy to spruce up its image. The 50-year-old drugstore chain recently debuted an outdoor campaign, via privately held agency DeVito/Verdi, with the tagline: “Your City. Your Drugstore.” To date, Duane Reade has either “completely rebuilt or remodeled” 30 of its 256 locations—to include pre-packaged foods like sandwiches and salads, and more improvements are coming, said acting chief marketing officer Joe Jackman. Although bold, marketing strides like these are contemporizing and keeping the Duane Reade brand top-of-mind among consumers, and so far, the feedback has been positive, Jackman told Brandweek. Excerpts from that conversation are below:


Brandweek: What made Duane Reade decide to launch its own private label brand? Where did the insight for the idea come from?

Joe Jackman: For the last year and a half, we’ve been doing a lot of research with customers. You might call a lot of it formal research—both quantitative and qualitative—and a lot of it was informal research, in the sense that we reached out to consumers in stores, in some cases asking for things that they were concerned about and wanted to see us offer, and they told us, “We’re looking for healthier products” and “We’re looking for tastier products that we feel are more interesting and present great value.” And so, we took a hard look at the products we have under our own labels and we said, “There is something we can do about that.” We’ve been reaching out to the vendor community and finding there is just a terrific interest in working with us, partly because we serve the needs of New Yorkers on a day to day basis and also, New York is an amazing place to launch new ideas and so, we’ve been busy working on products that satisfy those needs that consumers told us [they’re concerned about], which are healthier, tastier products, and ones that are interesting and offer great value.

BW: How did DR Delish test with consumers? Did you test market it in stores before announcing its metropolitan launch?

JJ: We had a number of different brands in the past. They could be anything from DR, our private label brand, and some that were under a range of names previously, but which we’ve decided to consolidate under a much more exciting brand called DR Delish. We think the name says it all and so, this is a new brand that we just launched this past Saturday and today, it’s 25 items. By the holidays, it will be many, many more. Our focus was really on snacks and beverages and making them healthier. In some cases, [that included] things like gluten-free, no trans fat, reduced calories, natural ingredients—the areas or things we really focused on in our sampling with various customers and also ones that work inside our own business. There is a whole community of New Yorkers that work within the business. The feedback has been very positive. We did not pre-launch [in test markets.] We believe that New Yorkers/our customers will vote with their pocketbooks. And if we’ve got a winner, we will know whom they are and if we’ve got someone we need to work on a little more, we’ll work on that.

BW: How big of a brand do you see this eventually becoming at Duane Reade? Will it grow to be a big chunk of sales?
JJ: We are building a private brand. We really wanted to stand out and be known as something that is outstanding by focusing on products in categories you can’t find in other places.