JUCM and JUCM News have been tracking Walmart’s unsuccessful efforts to become a go-to destination for their customers’ healthcare needs for years. The idea that shoppers would appreciate the convenience of getting a strep test or a flu shot where they buy tires simply hasn’t caught on among healthcare consumers. Now Dollar General apparently thinks it has a shot at getting the idea right among its acknowledged customer base of lower-income, largely rurally located Americans. One possible advantage in their favor is that those same low-income people are probably already aligned with state Medicaid programs, whereas Walmart customers represent a more economically diverse sample with a wide range of insurance coverage. Further, rural communities tend to be underserved by healthcare institutions. Finally, with 17,400 locations, Dollar General can rely on economies of scale to keep prices low and their margins relatively high. In effect, they may be able to create their own healthcare marketplace instead of fighting for market share in more saturated environments. The company’s first step was to hire a dedicated medical director, a physician they recruited from the healthcare consultant firm McKinsey & Company. Dollar General has already amped up efforts to stock fresh produce and healthier prepared items than it has in the past. With prices that tend to be lower than grocery stores’ and retail pharmacies’—again, already drawing lower-income people who are underserved healthcare consumers—could it be that the company has the right formula to succeed where Walmart failed (and without dipping into urgent care’s patient base)?
Could Dollar General Succeed Where Walmart Has Failed?