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    Walgreens Boosts Popularity with Self-Service Beverage Kiosk

    Giant drug chain testing Café W in central Florida market.

    THE VILLAGES, Fla. -- Unveiled last year in its home market of Chicago, Walgreen’s new self-service beverage kiosk called Café W is drawing new customers to the drug store giants’ stores in this test market of central Florida.

    Customers of the Village La Reynalda Walgreens in the Rolling Acres Plaza Shopping Center attribute Café W, particularly its self-service Maxwell House coffee, for the store’s surge in popularity, according to a report by the Daily Sun in Central Florida.

    The Rolling Acres store ranks among the 10 top beverage sellers in a Walgreens test market that covers most of central Florida, according to store manager Jim Donovan, who added that Café W is also being tested in Wichita, Kan.

    Café W is a project that began more than three years ago, when Walgreens went to Kraft asking for suggestions on how to solve two problems the chain was encountering: driving more store traffic and keeping people in the store longer. The self-service Café W was the solution.

    "I get a lot of people who regularly come to my store and pick up their coffee while they wait for prescriptions," Donovan told the Daily Sun.

    Customers interviewed by the Sun said they liked the "cheaper price," and the blend of the freshly ground coffee in the new kiosk, which features a range of drinks, from hot chocolate to coffee, cappuccino, café mocha, café latte, Icee frozen drinks, dispensed carbonated and fruit drinks.

    "We put the kiosks in to differentiate ourselves from the other chain drugstores," Donovan said of the Deerfield, Ill.-based chain’s marketing strategy.

    The test market has become such a success, Donovan said, Icee Co. and Coca-Cola Co. are about to introduce some new products aimed at customer demand for more affordable beverages choices, according to the Sun.

    The success of the Café W self-service kiosk comes as the drug chain recently reported a 5.3 percent increase in January store sales to slightly more than $5.2 billion.

    Overall pharmacy sales increased by 5 percent in January, the company reported. But comparable pharmacy sales increased only by 1 percent.

    Some customers said they actually consider the Walgreens kiosk much more convenient than other stores, including gas stations.

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