Get Your Drink on at Walgreens

Walgreens stopped selling alcohol in the early 1990s

In an effort to drive more traffic, Walgreens announced Tuesday that they will be putting beer and wine back on store shelves, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The new liquor addition, already in some Lincolnshire and Bourbonnais, Ill. stores, is expected to hit nationwide in the next 12 to 18 months, said Walgreens CEO Gregory Wasson. Mainstream beer and a few imports, along with "moderately priced" wine will be available.

The 108-year-old drugstore chain had sold liquor since the end of the Prohibition Era, but exited the business nearly two decades ago, when the cost and complexities involved with operating the department became a hassle, the Tribune reports. 

CVS, a rival drugstore, has been selling liquor in its stores for the past 20 years.

The change is part of a larger plan by the Deerfield-based company to boost overall sales, said Wasson, a former Walgreens' pharmacist.

"We've adjusted our retail model to respond to what we believe will be lasting changes in consumer behavior," said Wasson.

Wasson described the makeover, sparked by CVS' Chicago-area success, as "one of the most important strategic and operational transformations in our company's history."

In recent years, Walgreens has begun a nationwide overhaul of its existing stores to fit a new customer-friendly layout.  The program, called "customer-centric retailing," includes fewer impulse items, less clutter, and an easier-to-navigate floor plan.

The 35 "test stores," stocked with more consumer staples such as toilet paper and toothpaste, have already received positive feedback, Wasson said.

"The Walgreens of yesterday was designed for a shopper with more time than money," said Brendan Langan, director of retail insight at Management Ventures Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm.

Re-joining the liquor business signifies a break fro the past, Langan said.

"There are no sacred cows in Deerfield," he said.  "Everything is up for evaluation."

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