Retail veteran Roz Brewer has stepped down as CEO of Walgreens after more than two years in the position. Walgreens’ stock has faced challenges this year due to declining demand for COVID-19 vaccines and a slowdown in retail sales. The company is now seeking a new CEO with a strong background in healthcare.
Walgreens Boots Alliance announced on Friday that Roz Brewer had resigned as the company’s CEO as part of its strategic shift towards becoming a healthcare-focused company rather than just a drugstore. She has also left the company’s board, effective Thursday, and this decision was mutual, according to a company statement. Following this announcement, Walgreens’ shares fell by approximately 7%.
In the interim, Ginger Graham, the lead independent director and a veteran of the healthcare industry, will serve as the interim CEO while the company searches for a permanent replacement. Roz Brewer has agreed to continue advising the company until a new CEO is selected.
Walgreens and Brewer were facing challenges leading up to this announcement. The company’s stock had declined more than 32% this year due to reduced demand for Covid testing and vaccines. Additionally, front-end retail sales for items like toothpaste and shampoo had been consistently falling as consumers turned to competitors like Walmart and Amazon for online orders.
In June, Walgreens reported fiscal third-quarter earnings that fell short of Wall Street expectations for the first time since July 2020. The company also lowered its profit guidance for the year.
However, with the resurgence of Covid cases, pharmacy sales could potentially see an uptick. The next round of Covid boosters is expected to start rolling out in mid-September. For consumers not interested in boosters, Walgreens remains an option for over-the-counter cold and flu products.
Roz Brewer, a veteran of Walmart and Starbucks, had been leading Walgreens since March 2021. During her tenure, which included a significant portion of the Covid pandemic, the company aimed to position itself more as a healthcare provider than a traditional pharmacy chain. Walgreens recently acquired Summit Health and primary-care provider VillageMD, expanding its healthcare offerings. Roz Brewer’s previous experience in the healthcare sector dates back to her executive roles at Kimberly-Clark, a global health and hygiene products company, where she worked for more than two decades.
Competitor CVS Health has also been emphasizing healthcare, with plans to acquire Oak Street Health to add primary care to its portfolio. Meanwhile, Rite Aid has been expanding its pharmacy presence.
Given Walgreens’ shift towards healthcare, Brewer’s background was not as aligned with the company’s new direction. Prior to her role at Walgreens, she had served as Starbucks’ operating chief and group president and had previously been CEO of Walmart’s Sam’s Club. Her extensive experience was mainly in retail, which did not align with Walgreens’ growth strategy.
In her departure statement, Roz Brewer expressed confidence that Walgreens is on track to become a leading consumer-centric healthcare company, especially in communities needing access to healthcare.
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