Inside Rite Aid‘s Mission-Driven Approach to Retail Pharmacy

In the fast-paced and fiercely competitive world of retail pharmacy, standing out from the crowd is no easy feat. With industry giants like CVS and Walgreens capturing headlines and market share, it can be tough for other players to make their mark. But Rite Aid, the third-largest retail drugstore chain in the U.S., has managed to do just that—by staying true to a clear and compelling mission.

At first glance, Rite Aid‘s slogan, "With us, it‘s personal", may seem like just another corporate catchphrase. But when you dive deeper into the company‘s mission statement, values, and business practices, it becomes clear that this simple phrase is the beating heart of the organization.

In this article, we‘ll take an in-depth look at how Rite Aid‘s mission-driven approach has helped the company carve out a unique position in the retail pharmacy landscape. We‘ll examine the key components of Rite Aid‘s mission and values, explore how the company puts its principles into practice, and hear from industry experts on why a strong mission is more important than ever in today‘s market.

The Power of a Clear Mission

Before we dive into the specifics of Rite Aid‘s mission, let‘s take a step back and consider the role of mission statements in the business world. At its core, a mission statement is meant to define a company‘s reason for being—its purpose beyond making a profit.

But in reality, many companies‘ mission statements are vague, forgettable, or disconnected from their actual practices. A 2016 study by Bain & Company found that while 90% of companies had articulated a purpose or mission, only 46% felt their company‘s stated purpose had any real impact.

However, the study also found that companies with a truly purpose-driven mission outperformed their competitors on several key metrics. As Bain partner Mark Horwitch explained, "A company‘s purpose can be a powerful driver of performance. Companies that have a clear, concise and consistently communicated purpose, backed by an aligned set of values and behaviors, deliver sustained business results and enduring customer loyalty."

This is particularly true in the retail pharmacy industry, where trust and personal relationships are paramount. In a 2020 survey by J.D. Power, "friendly and engaging service" was the top driver of customer satisfaction with brick-and-mortar pharmacies.

"In an industry as personal as pharmacy, customers want to feel a genuine connection with their pharmacist and know that they‘re being cared for as an individual," said James Beem, managing director of healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power. "Pharmacies that can deliver on this with a clear sense of purpose have a real advantage."

Rite Aid‘s Mission: Improving Community Health, One Personal Connection at a Time

So what exactly is Rite Aid‘s mission? The company‘s formal mission statement reads:

"To improve the health and wellness of our communities through engaging experiences that provide our customers with the best products, services, and advice to meet their unique needs."

Let‘s unpack the key elements of this statement and how they shape Rite Aid‘s approach to business:

Improving Community Health and Wellness

At the heart of Rite Aid‘s mission is a commitment to improving the overall health and well-being of the communities it serves. This is a lofty goal that positions Rite Aid not just as a place to pick up prescriptions, but as an essential community health resource.

And Rite Aid‘s scale and reach give it significant potential to move the needle on public health. With over 2,400 stores across 18 states, Rite Aid serves millions of Americans each day. In 2020 alone, the company filled over 300 million prescriptions and administered over 5 million immunizations.

But Rite Aid‘s impact goes beyond the sheer volume of prescriptions filled. The company has also implemented several innovative programs and partnerships aimed at addressing specific community health challenges.

For example, in response to the opioid epidemic, Rite Aid has worked to expand access to safe medication disposal and overdose reversal drugs. The company has installed safe medication disposal kiosks in over 550 pharmacies and offers free DisposeRx packets with all opioid prescriptions to help customers safely discard unused medications. Rite Aid pharmacies in 28 states also dispense naloxone, a lifesaving drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, without requiring a prescription.

Rite Aid has also partnered with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute‘s "The Heart Truth" campaign to provide free heart health screenings and education in underserved communities. In 2019, the company provided over 2,600 free screenings and reached over 33,000 women with information on heart disease risk factors and prevention.

These initiatives demonstrate Rite Aid‘s commitment to proactively addressing pressing public health issues and being a true health partner to the communities it serves.

Engaging Experiences

Another key aspect of Rite Aid‘s mission is providing engaging experiences that go beyond the typical pharmacy transaction. For Rite Aid, this means creating a welcoming store environment, offering value-added services, and employing knowledgeable, friendly associates.

In recent years, Rite Aid has invested significantly in store remodels and updates to create a more modern, inviting space for customers. These renovations have included widening aisles, lowering shelves, improving lighting, and updating signage and décor. The company has also expanded its product selection to include more organic, natural, and wellness-focused items.

"Our goal is for customers to see Rite Aid as a whole health destination—a place where they can not only fill prescriptions, but also find the products and support they need to achieve their wellness goals," said Erik Keptner, Rite Aid‘s chief merchandising and marketing officer, in a 2020 press release.

Rite Aid has also differentiated itself through unique service offerings. For example, the company‘s "Vaccine Central" program makes it easy for customers to stay up-to-date on recommended immunizations by offering a broad range of vaccines (including travel vaccines) on a walk-in basis. And in 2020, Rite Aid launched a free telehealth service in partnership with InTouch Health, allowing customers to virtually connect with a healthcare provider for non-emergency needs from the comfort of their own homes.

But perhaps the most important aspect of creating an engaging experience is the human element—the Rite Aid associates who interact with customers every day. Rite Aid invests heavily in training and development to ensure that its pharmacists and store associates have the knowledge and soft skills to provide top-notch service.

"Our pharmacists are really on the frontlines of community health, building personal relationships with customers and going above and beyond to ensure they have the support and resources they need," said Jocelyn Konrad, Rite Aid‘s executive vice president of pharmacy, in a 2019 interview with Drug Store News. "Whether it‘s taking the time to provide medication counseling, recommending a supplement, or just lending a compassionate ear, our pharmacists make a real difference in customers‘ lives."

Personalized Products, Services and Advice

The final piece of Rite Aid‘s mission emphasizes meeting customers‘ unique needs with tailored products, services, and advice. In other words, Rite Aid aims to treat each customer as an individual and provide a personalized experience.

This starts with offering a wide range of products that cater to diverse health needs and preferences. In addition to traditional pharmacy offerings, Rite Aid stocks homeopathic remedies, vitamins and supplements, organic beauty products, and more. The company‘s "Rite Aid Pharmacy" line of over 3,000 private brand items also offers affordable, high-quality alternatives to national brands.

On the pharmacy side, Rite Aid has implemented several programs to provide more personalized service. For example, the "Rx Savings Program" offers exclusive discounts on select generic medications for customers who enroll. And the "OneTripRefills" service syncs up customers‘ maintenance medication refills so they can pick them all up in a single trip to the pharmacy each month.

Rite Aid pharmacists also offer individualized consultations and medication therapy management services to help customers manage chronic conditions and multiple prescriptions. These one-on-one interactions allow pharmacists to catch potential drug interactions, recommend lower-cost alternatives, and ensure customers are taking their medications as prescribed.

"Our pharmacists really take the time to get to know their patients and understand their unique situations," said Konrad. "It‘s not just about filling the prescription, but making sure the patient has the knowledge and tools they need to achieve the best possible outcomes."

Walking the Walk: Rite Aid‘s Mission in Action

Of course, a mission statement is only as good as the actions that support it. And Rite Aid has implemented several key strategies and programs to bring its mission to life.

Investing in Associates

One of Rite Aid‘s core values is "associate development"—a commitment to investing in the growth and well-being of its employees. The company offers a range of training and development programs to help associates build skills and advance their careers, including leadership workshops, continuing education courses, and tuition reimbursement.

Rite Aid has also made significant investments in associate compensation and benefits. In 2018, the company announced a three-year, $90 million initiative to raise wages and enhance benefits for hourly associates, including an improved paid time off policy and a new employee assistance program offering no-cost counseling services.

These investments not only support Rite Aid‘s values, but also make good business sense. Studies have consistently shown that companies that invest in employee development and well-being see lower turnover, higher productivity, and better customer service.

For example, a 2017 study by the Work Institute found that lack of career development was the number one reason employees left their jobs voluntarily. And research by Gallup has shown that highly engaged teams result in 21% greater profitability and 10% higher customer ratings.

By supporting its associates, Rite Aid is better able to deliver on its mission of providing engaging, personalized experiences for customers.

Championing Diversity and Inclusion

Another of Rite Aid‘s core values is a commitment to diversity. The company has made a concerted effort to build a workforce that reflects the communities it serves and to create an inclusive environment where all associates feel valued.

Some key initiatives have included:

  • Establishing a Diversity & Inclusion Council made up of leaders from across the organization to guide D&I strategy
  • Setting goals to increase representation of women and people of color in leadership roles
  • Providing unconscious bias training for all associates
  • Partnering with diverse professional organizations and historically black colleges and universities for recruitment
  • Supporting associate resource groups for women, LGBTQ+ individuals, veterans, and other historically underrepresented groups

Rite Aid‘s commitment to diversity and inclusion isn‘t just a feel-good talking point—it‘s a strategic imperative. Numerous studies have shown that diverse and inclusive organizations see better financial performance, increased innovation, and higher employee engagement.

For example, a 2019 analysis by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. The study also found that companies with more gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability.

By building a diverse and inclusive culture, Rite Aid is not only living out its values, but also positioning itself for long-term success.

Giving Back to Communities

Perhaps the most tangible way Rite Aid brings its mission to life is through community outreach and philanthropy. The company‘s "Rite Aid Foundation" is a public charity dedicated to driving positive change in the communities Rite Aid serves.

One of the Foundation‘s key initiatives is the KidCents program, which allows Rite Aid customers to round up their in-store or online purchases to the nearest dollar and donate the change to youth-focused charities. Since its launch in 2014, KidCents has raised over $100 million and impacted over 10 million kids.

Rite Aid also mobilizes to support communities in times of crisis. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company implemented a "Pandemic Pay" program offering a 30% pay premium to hourly associates and instituted a "Hero Program" providing $5 million in bonuses to frontline workers. Rite Aid also partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services to rapidly scale up COVID-19 testing and vaccine administration, ultimately providing over 6 million tests and 8 million vaccine doses.

These efforts demonstrate Rite Aid‘s authentic commitment to being a caring neighbor and supporting its communities through thick and thin. And that commitment hasn‘t gone unnoticed by customers.

In a 2021 survey by Ipsos, Rite Aid was ranked as the second most trusted pharmacy chain in the U.S., just behind CVS. The survey also found that among the 33% of shoppers who pick up prescriptions via curbside pickup (a service Rite Aid rapidly rolled out during the pandemic), Rite Aid and CVS were the most preferred destinations.

The Bottom Line

In the cut-throat world of retail pharmacy, Rite Aid has managed to not only survive but thrive by staying true to a clear and authentic mission. By putting community health, engaging experiences, and personalized care at the center of everything it does, Rite Aid has built a loyal customer base and a strong competitive position.

But Rite Aid‘s mission isn‘t just good for business—it‘s a powerful example of the role corporations can play in driving positive social impact. Through initiatives like KidCents, diversity and inclusion efforts, and rapid response in times of crisis, Rite Aid is making a meaningful difference in the lives of the communities it serves.

As consumer expectations for brands continue to shift and purpose becomes an increasingly important driver of loyalty and performance, Rite Aid‘s mission-driven approach provides a valuable case study for other companies to learn from.

The key takeaway? A clear, authentic, and consistently executed mission is more than just a nice-to-have—it‘s an essential strategic asset in today‘s market. Companies that get it right not only do well, but also do good. And that‘s a prescription for long-term success.