Walgreens continues its master class in free market economics in Porter Square
The Walgreens nobody wanted opened in Porter Square this summer to predictably underwhelming demand.
Predictable because the store is across the street from a 24-hour Shaw’s grocery store and 24-hour CVS pharmacy, and a company spokesman telegraphed in December that there was nothing really all that notable or unique about the new Walgreens that would set it apart from the existing services – oh, except that it would sell only from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (with a pharmacy open shorter hours than that) seven days a week.
So, also predictable: Only weeks after launch, the parent company has decided to make the 1 Porter Square plaza Walgreens open 24 hours, although the pharmacy still fills orders only 86 hours per week compared with the 168 hours at the 24/7 CVS a few feet away. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the pharmacy also soon went to an all-day schedule.
The store is bright and has lots of stuff in it in a variety of categories, and Walgreens – a Deerfield, Ill., company with some 7,000 stores – may eventually have a successful location here.
When it was announced last year that landlords KS Partners were pushing out a Pier 1 Imports in favor of the redundant Walgreens, there was some reader commentary about the virtues of the free market at work. Nothing really to add here except that one obvious thing about the free market is that sometimes business people read the signs wrong and make what wind up being wrong decisions. A lot of free market and a bit of smart planning, sometimes in the form of zoning, can go a long way, with districts that limit the amount of chain businesses and fast food restaurants being an example.
But then there’s planning and zoning that goes wrong anyway, and what can you do?
Cambridge’s efforts to make the city pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly contribute to project review standards that say ground floors of businesses should be generally 25 percent to 50 percent “transparent,” meaning having glass fronts that let passers-by see inside, and retail such as Walgreens or Shaw’s are to stick to the high end of ground-floor glass use.
But Shaw’s uses its plate glass like it’s just another wall, papering it over with posters and displays and shoving Coinstar and Redbox machines up against it. And Walgreens can’t be bothered to customize their corporate displays, installing wide illuminated signs and displays that are cut off comedically by the wide brick columns between narrower panes of glass. The pithy, millennial way to put it is “#fail.”
On the bright side, the more of a success this Walgreens is, the more likely it is the company will eventually revamp the window displays and make them actually fit the space they’re in.
Walgreens representatives failed to return calls for this story.