Walgreens Boots Alliance has promoted a longtime Walgreens executive to lead the pharmacy chain. The company on Wednesday named Richard Ashworth president of Walgreens, a position that has been held since 2014 by WBA co-chief operating officer Alex Gourlay, who is set to focus more broadly on that role.
Ashworth, who most recently was Walgreens president of operations, will now oversee strategy development for the chain, as well as full responsibility for its leadership, development and management. A pharmacist by training, Ashworth joined Walgreens in 1992 as a service clerk, and throughout his career has held roles with increasing responsibility across the company, from pharmacy and health care commercial to retail and other segments.
“I didn't know in 1992 when I started as a cashier that this is where I would be,” Ashworth told Store Brands. “But I've grown up with this brand and I have a great passion for it. And I have a lot of respect for our customers and for our employees.”
Ashworth noted that, as he moves into his new role, Walgreens’ private brands — which span the retailer’s box, but have seen particular traction in beauty with No7 and Soap & Glory — will continue to be a focus.
“Our own brands and our partnered brands are going to be a center focus for us in terms of driving value for our consumers, which they're absolutely wanting, but also driving innovation,” Ashworth said. “I think that's a big key that you'll see coming out of the USA business over time, with our private label, owned and partner brands, that we're going to be focused on differentiation and innovation, not just value — and I think we can accomplish both. That’s a big part of our acceleration, especially in the health-and-wellness area. We’re really focusing on our own brands and our private label to drive growth.”
Ashworth also noted that the company’s partnerships, which include a store pilot with Kroger — with which Walgreens also recently formed a group purchasing organization to improve scale for the two companies’ own brands — as well as in-store partnerships with Jenny Craig, Village MD, Quest Diagnostics and more, will be a continued focus for Walgreens.
“I’m in Las Vegas coming back from seeing some of the investments and partnerships that we have, and partnership is one of the core values of WBA,” Ashworth said. “So to use a Vegas term, I'm going to double down on that. I think partnerships are a great way for us to get speed and expertise when others do what they do best and bring that into an environment where we can use our brand, our customer channel and, of course, our pharmacy and health and beauty business in a different way.”
Stefano Pessina, WBA executive chairman and CEO, said that Ashworth, “truly understands our customers and is passionate about the role we play in their daily lives. We are pleased to have Richard lead the Walgreens business, and lead the charge as we create the Walgreens of the future.”
With Ashworth moving into the Walgreens president role, Walgreens said that Gourlay will continue to carry out the broader responsibilities of being co-COO, including oversight of Walgreens and Boots, execution and transformation, as well as working with co-COO Ornella Barra to oversee global operations.
“I would also like to thank Alex for his leadership and dedication through a pivotal time, following the formation of Walgreens Boots Alliance, and most recently into a period of rapid change across pharmacy and retail,” Pessina said. “He will continue in a key, global role as a member of my leadership team, advancing our health and wellness strategy while working closely with Richard.”