Thousands of people recently streamed into an arena in Lexington, Ky., to receive Covid-19 vaccines, but it wasn’t a hospital or health company managing the event. It was Kroger Co. , the biggest U.S. supermarket chain.
The Cincinnati-based company, which put up signage around the arena, has administered about 28,250 doses at the mass-vaccination site since February. Kroger hopes to boost its health business through its pandemic efforts. It aims to deliver millions of vaccinations to people nationwide and create more repeat customers for its pharmacies and supermarket offerings.
The pandemic, and stay-at-home orders combating it, helped make 2020 a banner year for U.S. grocers. Kroger generated record sales of $132.5 billion in the year ended Jan. 30.
The post-pandemic path is less clear for Kroger and other supermarket chains. Reopened restaurants will likely reclaim some of consumers’ food purchases, industry executives and analysts say, while pandemic-related safety measures elevate supermarkets’ expenses.
Kroger is betting that its in-store pharmacies and clinics can keep its supermarkets central to consumers’ lives even as the coronavirus recedes, with shoppers spending more in a continuation of the company’s pandemic-fueled growth. Over the past year, Kroger also has provided hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 tests in stores and drive-through sites, delivered prescriptions for no charge and offered virtual health services.