Albertsons eyes Rite Aid deal in health care push


Associated Press

The owner of Safeway and other grocery brands is buying the drugstore chain Rite Aid as retailers continue to plunge deeper into health care and adjust to swiftly changing shopping habits.

Albertsons Companies executives said Tuesday that their purchase of Rite Aid’s more than 2,500 remaining stores will help the combined company become a “leader in food, health and wellness.”

The combination will have 4,892 stores and more than 4,300 pharmacies with a stronger presence on both coasts of the U.S. market. Leaders of both companies said the deal will help attract pharmacy customers who tend to spend more at Albertsons grocery stores.

That comes as the grocer starts to strengthen same-day deliveries, a meal-kit business and other products that cater to customers who want fast service.

Retailers have been pushing home deliveries and other customer-friendly services in the wake of expanded competition from Amazon. The online giant bought the grocer Whole Foods last year and plans to roll out a two-hour delivery service this year to customers who pay for its $99-a-year Prime membership.

Amazon’s competitors also are bulking up health care services that cannot be purchased online. Late last year, Rite Aid rival CVS Health Corp. said it would buy the health insurer Aetna for $69 billion. That deal could turn many of the chain’s 9,800 stores into one-stop-shop locations for an array of health care needs such as blood work and eye or hearing care in addition to their traditional role of filling prescriptions.

In Rite Aid, Albertsons Companies is buying a chain that has already remodeled more than half of its stores into a format that includes expanded pharmacy services and more health products. Like its drugstore chain competition, Rite Aid also operates walk-in clinics that can deal with cases of the flu, sinus infections and other relatively minor complaints.

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