Walgreens Launches ‘Anti-Theft’ Store in Chicago, Limiting Shoppers to Only Access 2 Aisles

Walgreens in Chicago’s South Loop has been transformed into a dystopian store with a new security system. After passing through anti-theft detectors, the new design restricts customer access to only two aisles of basic goods. This is the first Walgreens store to try this experimental layout. It’s located on the Northeast Corner of State & Roosevelt Street.

Walgreens spokesperson Megan Boyd said that the store still offers the same products it used to, but the changes were made for the convenience of customers. Boyd stated:

Just with a fresh look and feel, focusing on digital shopping for convenience. This store is testing out a new shopping experience with new technologies, concepts, and practices that will enhance the experiences for our team and customers.

The majority of the store’s merchandise is located behind staffed counters. Customers can browse and order digitally via kiosks. The store’s signage instructs customers to “place your orders and relax” or “let us handle the shopping”, while staff fills their purchases on shelves hidden from the public. The store offers self-checkouts for “essentials”, such as groceries, bandages, and over-the-counter medications.

Customers have given a variety of feedback on the renovation. Sirak Goitom, a customer from Malaysia, said the layout of the retail store was “confusing.”

Goitom added:

It was much easier to enter and exit the building before. This is not good for the business. Self-checkouts aren’t going to improve security.

South Loop resident Mu Ergin who shops there often said that the store had been “dirty, stinky, and not organized” in the past. He also reported having witnessed groups congregating on the sidewalk and shoplifting. Erguin said that the renovations made the store look more attractive, saying:

The store is much cleaner now. They are making it smaller to better control it. It’s better for you… but it was never a concern of mine.

Jacoby Gunn felt the company was racially profiled. Gunn, who is a street cleaner and neighborhood peacekeeper, works with READI Chicago. According to the University of Chicago, this initiative aims to reduce gun violence by offering “at-risk” adult males an 18-month supported job, as well as cognitive-behavioral training. Gunn said:

I don’t know why they moved everything back to this particular store. There is crime everywhere. It’s called racial profile. Why do you not trust your customers?

Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ: WBA) recently acknowledged that the concerns about retail theft in 2022 may have been exaggerated. James Kehoe, Chief Financial Officer of the company, stated that shrinkage has decreased and the company is pleased with its progress.

Kehoe stated the following during a January earnings call:

We may have cried a little too much the last year. We are quite satisfied with our current situation. The [reduction in sales] is between 2.5% and 2.6%. This is a significant drop from the previous year’s levels.

Kehoe said the chain was shifting from private security companies to law enforcement because the private companies had “proven largely ineffective.”