Inside the Battle Between CVS and Walgreens in Westchester County

Despite fierce competition nationwide, one pharmacy chain reigns supreme in Westchester.

Despite fierce competition nationwide, one pharmacy chain reigns supreme in Westchester. Can you guess if it’s CVS or Walgreens?

America’s two largest pharmacy companies, CVS and Walgreens, have long battled for dominance, but in Westchester, CVS leaves its competitors seeing red. The three familiar sans-serif letters can be found seemingly all over Westchester, in downtowns and shopping centers  — and now even in Target stores.

CVS is the larger company in the US, with more than 9,700 stores, compared with Walgreens’ 8,200 US locations. The two major companies, “have been duking it out for years,” says Brian Feroldi, who writes about CVS for The Motley Fool website.

Here in Westchester, CVS boasts 57 stores to Walgreens’ 17. In White Plains, you’ll find seven CVS stores — two in the heart of downtown — to one Walgreens. The match-up is closer in Yonkers, Westchester’s largest city, with seven CVS stores to five Walgreens. But no Walgreens operate in the county’s second-largest city, New Rochelle, home to five CVS spots.

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Andy Sookram, director of S&P Global Ratings and a Bronxville resident, suspects that the difference may be one of raw real estate savvy, won by whomever can land lucrative high-traffic sites. “It depends on how well they negotiate leases for those locations,” Sookram says.

CVS demonstrated such tenacity late in 2015, when the company took over a Yonkers A&P on Nepperhan Avenue, across from a Walgreens, despite residents’ vociferous assertions that the neighborhood needed a supermarket. Having bid more than $4.5 million in an auction for the site, CVS went ahead with plans to open the store but agreed to sublease part of the building to a Key Food store to meet residents’ demands.

Westchester is fertile ground for pharmacies, according to William M. Mooney Jr., president and chief executive of the Westchester County Association, who states that the demographics are “fantastic” for pharmacy chains, with residents at all levels of the economic strata. Mooney adds that the preponderance of hospitals and healthcare companies in Westchester is also attractive to these companies. Pharmacy chains overall have performed well lately, say experts, thanks to an aging population and a boost from the Affordable Care Act, which brought in many customers who did not previously have insurance coverage.

What happens next in the local pharmacy wars? Walgreens is poised to take over Rite Aid Corp, which has a handful of Westchester stores. The move would create a company with an expected 12,300 stores domestically, though Feroldi points out that merged companies often close some of their stores. Sookram of S&P Global adds that Walgreens would likely convert some Rite Aids into its own more up-to-date stores. “I think you’re going to see greater competitive pressure there,” he says.

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