As last week’s obsession with all things Bezos faded like a canyon echo, there were a few voices worth listening to about what’s next for Jeff. One voice I always listen to is CNBC contributor and host of the “Recode Decode” podcast Kara Swisher. In a recent CNBC interview about Bezos’s next big thing, besides fighting climate change with his Bezos Earth Fund and pioneering space tourism (as if that were not enough) she highlighted his interest in healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Not surprising, as it appears that nearly every major retailer is setting its sights on this huge, expensive, and highly inefficient category; one in which America spends more and gets less in return than any other country on the planet.
In a January statement Bezos was quoted as saying that Haven “worked very well” as a place to come up with ideas and test them but added: “Now that we’re ready to implement, we realize that doing so independently makes the most sense.” This may be another example of Amazon trying something and “failing fast”, only to come back and succeed on an extremely high level. That scenario has played out many times in their young history. Certainly, if Bezos and company can change the paradigm (and financial incentives) from treating diseases to incentivizing preventative practices, they may very well crack the code that has been so elusive for so long.
Best Way Forward
Another major retailer that has become focused on wellness is Best Buy
The prototype 18,000-square-foot store launched in Edina, Minnesota, just a stone’s throw from Minneapolis’s venerable Southdale Shopping Center. The concept combined both health and wellness products and a broad range of service offerings. The service side included a complete spa and salon, makeup consultations, aroma therapy, wellness programs, yoga, and Pilates. Also available were nurses and dieticians, a complete pharmacy, a Caribou Coffee shop, and even the tech services of the Geek Squad.
The 10,000-SKU product mix included many health, wellness, and herbal remedies as well as exercise equipment, air purifiers, and more. Unfortunately, the concept also included more than a little of Best Buy’s core technology products, which seemed to water down the concept. By April 2006, a little more than a year after opening, they pulled the plug.
Today Best Buy’s wellness focus is on the home, promoting aging in place. Best Buy Health uses connected technology to “Make home the center of better health.” It offers tech-enabled interactions with trained professionals to facilitate in home care. Their press states “We’re a team of social care experts who provide around-the-clock support, getting to know your customers individually and filling the gaps in the continuum of care.” They claim to be able to build meaningful virtual interactions with mom or dad, offering a highly personal care experience.
Who better to combine “everyday low prices” with an efficient healthcare delivery system than Walmart? September of 2019 brought news of the launch of Walmart Health, their first primary care clinic located in Dallas, TX. The number has risen to a dozen such full service, best in class care facilities. As would be expected with Walmart, the concept is extremely well developed and seamlessly executed. Besides feeling family friendly, it celebrates price transparency though posted “service menus.”
Walmart also completed a makeover of “The Wellness Hub” an online guide to healthy living. The site now allows you to shop for specific goals in four categories including self-care, workout fuel, mental wellness, and better nutrition. They also offer a host of “LiveWell” podcasts connected with managing diabetes, blood pressure monitoring and family vaccinations. And not surprisingly, Walmart’s 15,000 plus pharmacist in conjunction with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention are now also administering COVID-19 vaccinations at select Walmart Pharmacies in 22 states.
Niche Services, Aplenty
Besides “the bigs” there are some very compelling niche plays in wellness. In December Inc. Magazine inaugurated a “Best in Business” list. To quote Inc. “Our newest awards celebrate companies-big and small-making a superlative impact on their industries, their neighbors, and our world.” The Honorees came from 37 different categories including health, wellness, software, retail, business services, and more. Among the 2,700 applicants, franchised-based Restore Hyper Wellness was selected in the wellness service category.
Launched in Austin TX in 2015, the company is approaching 80 locations. It addresses chronic pain, injury recovery, athletic performance, enhanced immunity, proactive wellness, and health-span. I spoke with Restore’s Chief Marketing Officer, David Fossas about the company’s growth, and dealing with the pandemic. I was amazed to learn that despite COVID-19 they were able to increase revenue a stunning 141% year-over-year in 2020. They also delivered their one millionth wellness treatment. David indicated they expect to nearly double their store count to 150 by this year’s end. Equally impressive are commitments in place for 241 new franchise locations. The company has 10 corporate owned locations, as well.
Among their most popular treatments are IV-drip therapy, followed by Cryotherapy. Restore claims its drip therapy provides vital hydration and micronutrients while boosting immunity and energy levels. David said that their core objectives are to “make hyper wellness affordable and accessible to everyone.” The company is committed to science-based research on aging and increasing “health span” to align more with our average lifespan, which currently lags by about 14 years.
Return on Investment
In 2008, Dean Halverson and Wayne Glowac published “Healthcare Tsunami” which summarized over 25 years of their experiences consulting for the healthcare industry. In the simplest terms, their thesis supports the increasingly popular notion that boosting preventative care provides better returns than feeding the curative side of the ledger.
With the oldest millennials now turning 39, and with 10,000 boomers hitting 65 each day I believe that companies like Restore (and the many more to follow) will be well positioned for growth across a multi-generational spectrum. If COVID-19 has taught us anything it is protecting our health and maintaining a strong immunity system maybe the cheapest health insurance policy going.