BUSINESS + ECONOMY

Walgreens CEO steps down

Sep 2, 2023, 10:10 AM

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NEW YORK (CNN) — Walgreens Boots Alliance on Friday said that CEO Rosalind Brewer has stepped down less than three years after taking the helm at the pharmacy chain.

The retailer said in a release that its board and Brewer, who was reportedly one of only two Black women to lead a Fortune 500 company, mutually agreed for her to step down. Brewer also immediately stepped down as a member of the company’s board.

Walgreens’ board named Ginger Graham, a member of the board, as interim CEO as the company launches a search for a permanent CEO.

Walgreens facing difficult period of time

Brewer’s departure comes amid a turbulent period for the retailer.

Shares of Walgreens are down 32% so far this year. Walgreens slashed its full-year profit guidance in June, warning of softening consumer spending and a pullback in demand for Covid vaccines.

But even outside of pharmacy product sales, the retailer is struggling with sluggish purchases of discretionary items.

Under Brewer, Walgreens had implemented cost-saving measures in an effort to boost profitability in its healthcare segment. The steps included closing 450 locations in the United States and in the United Kingdom combined and eliminating more than 500 roles, or around 10% of its corporate and US office support workforce.

As it closes stores, the retailer is also experimenting with newer formats, including one in Chicago where most of the merchandise is intentionally kept out of sight.

The store, located on 2 East Roosevelt Road, at one point offered a typical Walgreens shopping experience – multiple aisles stacked with daily essentials, cosmetics, packaged snacks, health care needs and an in-store pharmacy.

The same location earlier this month reopened with a dramatically pared back look. Walgreens says it’s a digital-first experimental store to benefit customers and not designed to deter theft, Walgreens says.

But retail experts say keeping all merchandise out of reach sure is an effective way to combat rising incidents of shoplifting. Retailers, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Dollar General recently sounded the alarm on theft becoming an increasingly serious problem that could erode their company profits this year.

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Walgreens CEO steps down