Target probes healthcare concept further

Eight new healthcare clinics in Target stores are set to open in two new markets in July as part of the company’s most ambitious expansion of the healthcare initiative since it first began dabbling with clinics.

Four clinics at stores in the Northern Virginia towns of Fairfax, Falls Church, Gainesville and Leesburg are set to open on July 29, the same day as four new clinics in the North Carolina towns of Apex, Wake Forest and Durham, which will get two clinics.
The eight locations are part of 10 new clinics planned for 2012 that will give the company a year-end total of 54 clinics in Virginia, North Carolina, Minnesota, Maryland, Illinois and Florida.

Adding 10 clinics onto a store base of nearly 1,800 stores hardly qualifies as a rollout, but it is the largest single-year expansion in the program’s brief history and an acceleration from last year when eight clinics were added to give the company a year-end total of 44 clinics. Target may yet end up with hundreds of the clinics as increasingly they are seen as a viable alternative to traditional healthcare delivery sites for those in need of non-emergency health care.

While the accelerated pace of openings this year and last suggests Target wants to conduct a larger scale test in more states to gain broader insights into consumers’ willingness to receive health care in a discount stores, it could be a decade before clinics are located in a critical mass of stores, assuming a rollout is even in the cards. In-store clinics sound good on paper, and there is some synergy with the pharmacy business, but even leading such drug store chains as CVS and Walgreens have rolled out their clinic brands as a modest pace. CVS operates more than 600 Minute Clinics, but that’s in a base of 7,352 stores. Walgreens operates 350 Take Care branded clinics in its 7,800 stores.