Although prices are middling, selection, convenience, and customer service pull Walgreens toward the front of the pack. It counts the most locations, including many with drive-thru pharmacies, 24-hour service, and health clinics featuring reasonably priced vaccines.
Walgreens may not be the cheapest pharmacy, but it excels in other important aspects of the drugstore shopping experience. Walgreens fell in the middle of the pack pricewise among the three stand-alone drugstores in our comparison, making it one of the most expensive stores overall. We found an ample selection of store-brand items selling at lower prices than the comparable brand-name items on our shopping list, but factoring in those store brands did not improve Walgreens' ranking.
Although the prices at Walgreens don't exactly impress, customers also take the chain's Balance Rewards program into account. Members can claim paperless coupons and accumulate points by purchasing featured products. The points can be cashed in for a dollar amount at various milestones (beginning at 5,000 points). Walgreens also performed well when we compared prices on immunizations at the walk-in clinic. It trailed only Walmart as the cheapest choice for a hepatitis A, meningitis, or HPV vaccine. Walgreens has about 400 Healthcare Clinics at stores in 20 states, more than any other chain besides CVS.
Among online reviewers and consumers we spoke with, Walgreens is a popular and convenient drugstore with a generous rewards program, a broad selection, and stellar customer service. J.D. Power's 2014 U.S. Pharmacy Study rates it "better than most" for customer satisfaction. The Walgreens we visited in central Ohio carried a variety of merchandise, including personal care and beauty products, pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter medication, grocery items, greeting cards, and seasonal merchandise. All were easily accessible in a clean, friendly environment. We were greeted almost immediately, which provided assurance that we could easily find an employee to assist us when necessary.
Walgreens offers a wide assortment of pharmacy services, such as drive-thru pharmacies and refill reminders via text, phone call, and email. Its stores provide additional conveniences including Redbox movie rentals, photo services, and ATMs. Walgreens has more than 8,000 stores nationwide, including many open 24 hours. Some even have 24-hour pharmacies.
Overall, Walgreens may underwhelm on price but delivers on other fronts. With an abundant selection, a profitable rewards program, and high customer satisfaction, Walgreens has found a formula that works for many consumers.