Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos said on Wednesday that the retailer was seeking business opportunities in healthcare for one simple reason: About 65% of the company’s stores are located in “healthcare deserts”.
Vasos said this translates to more than 10,000 stores – many in rural areas and small towns – where customers have to travel long distances for medical care.
He said the retailer was in a privileged position to change that.
“While it is in its infancy, we have the opportunity to really develop this aspect of the healthcare of the business – not just the products in the store, but the services,” he said. declared during a virtual conference organized by Barclays.
Dollar General recently announced plans to expand into the healthcare industry. In July, Deep Discounter announced it had hired its first chief medical officer and planned to add health-related items to shelves, from dental supplies to cold and cough medicine.
However, the company has provided few details on what its offering might look like.
Vasos said new chief medical officer Dr Albert Wu led the company’s first board meeting on Tuesday and encouraged investors to stay.
The expansion could also undermine the company’s reputation. Over the years, Dollar General has been criticized for growing food deserts – neighborhoods and communities where consumers struggle to find affordable nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables. As the retailer has opened more stores, some lawmakers have said it intimidates grocers who would bring in more healthy and fresh items to choose from.
Dollar General adds meat and products to stores. They are now present in more than 1,300 stores – or about 7% of its total footprint – and he said it could expand to 10,000 stores.
Still, Vasos said the health desert could be an even bigger problem.
“There aren’t as many health / medical deserts in rural America as there are food deserts,” he said. “We believe we have the capacity to serve the consumer in the many cases where he or she has to drive 30, 40 minutes to get basic health care today.”