Albertsons buying Rite Aid chain

By The Associated Press

Albertsons Cos. is buying the Rite Aid drugstore chain as retailers continue to plunge deeper into health care and adjust to swiftly changing shopping habits.

In south Louisiana, Rite Aid has nine stores in Baton Rouge; seven in New Orleans; four in Metairie; two each in Lafayette, New Iberia and Slidell; and one each in Abbeville, Denham Springs, Gonzales, Harahan, Jefferson, Marrero and Terrytown.

The owner of Safeway and other grocery brands said its 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 combined chains 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, which cannot be purchased online. Late last year, Rite Aid rival CVS Health Corp. said it would buy 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 like bloodwork and eye or hearing care in addition to their traditional role of filling prescriptions.

In Rite Aid, Albertsons Cos. is buying a chain that already has remodeled more than half 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.

It also has a pharmacy benefit management business that runs prescription drug coverage.

Albertsons said it will continue to run Rite Aid stand-alone stores, and most of the grocery operator’s pharmacies will be rebranded as Rite Aid. Albertsons also runs Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Vons and Acme stores.