The owner of Safeway and other grocery brands is buying the drugstore chain Rite Aid as retailers continue to plunge deeper into health care and adjust to swiftly changing shopping habits.
Albertsons Companies executives said their purchase of Rite Aid's more than 2,500 remaining stores will help the company become a "leader in food, health and wellness."
The combination will have 4,892 stores and more than 4,300 pharmacies, with a stronger presence on both coasts of the U.S. market. Leaders of both companies said the deal will help attract pharmacy customers who tend to spend more at Albertsons grocery stores.
Retailers have been pushing home deliveries and other customer-friendly services in the wake of expanded competition from Amazon. Amazon's competitors also are bulking up health care services, which cannot be purchased online.
Late last year, Rite Aid rival CVS Health Corp. said it would buy the health insurer Aetna for $69 billion. That deal could turn many of the chain's 9,800 stores into one-stop-shop locations for an array of health care needs, like blood work and eye or hearing care, in addition to their role of filling prescriptions.
In Rite Aid, Albertsons Companies is buying a chain that has already remodeled more than half of its stores into a format that includes expanded pharmacy services and more health products. Like its drugstore-chain competition, Rite Aid operates walk-in clinics that can deal with cases of the flu, sinus infections and other relatively minor complaints.