Cooler Screens Suing Whale Customer Walgreens For $200M Over Halted Rollout

June 9, 2023 by Dave Haynes

The company that has been building out a retail media network based around “smart” transparent LCD chiller doors in major chains is now involved in a $200 million lawsuit against a whale account, drug chain giant Walgreens.

Cooler Screens has filed an action in an Illinois state court, alleging Walgreens reneged on a rollout agreement that would see the screens deployed in some 2,500 stores across the U.S.

In an interesting twist, one of the founders of Cooler Screens was, for five years, the CEO of Walgreens. Greg Wasson worked for Walgreens for more than three decades, and ran the company between 2009 to 2014.

In a different interesting, albeit unrelated twist, Wasson was CEO at Walgreens when it did a $140M deal to work with Theranos on in-store blood testing. Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was convicted on multiple counts of fraud and recently started an 11-year prison sentence (Watch The Dropout docu-drama if you get a chance, or read John Carreyrou’s terrific book, Bad Blood.).

Cooler Screens, according to news reports, is claiming the current CEO Roz Brewer reneged on the company’s agreement to swap the conventional glass doors in the stores’ refrigerator display area with transparent digital versions that could or would drive brand messaging and ideally influence purchase behaviors.

The decision to halt the rollout of these “Smart Doors” cost the startup, it alleges, more than $200 million:

The rollout had started in 2018 but was halted after Brewer took over Walgreens and saw the screens in situ.

“After visiting stores in which Smart Doors had been installed, Brewer decided that she did not like the way they looked, purportedly comparing the screens to ‘Vegas’ in a derogatory way,” Cooler Screens reportedly argues in its legal filing, which also alleges that Walgreens fabricated reasons to terminate the contract.

Walgreens says there were big technical issues, like flickering images, inaccurate inventory displays and electrical issues. Cooler Screens says “old and outdated” refrigerators and freezers at Walgreens were behind any glitches, and suggests a lack of cooperation from Walgreens torpedoed ad sales.

“We are disappointed that Cooler Screens is falsely claiming that anything other than their failure to perform was the basis for the termination of our contractual relationship,” Walgreens spokesperson Jim Cohn said in a statement Thursday. “The claims and allegations in Cooler Screens’ complaint are baseless and unfounded. Safety, customer experience, and meeting revenue goals are a priority for our company. Cooler Screens failed to meet its contractual obligations, and the decision to terminate the contract was based on our experience with Cooler Screens.”

Walgreens terminated the agreement in February, and as part of the termination, wants Cooler Screens to uninstall all those transparent LCD doors. The doors, unfortunately, were custom-built to fit Walgreens’ chillers and can’t easily be repurposed to go instead in, say, a CVS.

I tried looking up the filings, but that was looking like a very deep rabbit hole to go down. If anyone knows how to navigate and do research on filings in Illinois, and wants to dig, I’d be happy to get copies or a link (if publicly accessible).

Cooler Screens says it also has displays in Kroger groceries, Giant Eagle, Chevron and Areas convenience stores, and Western Union shops.

At the start of the year, Cooler Screens announced intentions to expand beyond the chillers and offer retail media screens in other locations, like end-caps and pharmacy – a “One Store, One Platform” offer to “deliver a single connected platform for in-store media and merchandising for retailers and brands.”

  1. Will Amos says:

    That’s a real shame…

  2. A says:

    HAHAHAHAHA people HATE these things !

  3. Ken Goldberg says:

    Sounds like building a unicorn is not that easy.

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