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Chong Bang, Walgreens’ CCR guru, leaving to join Shoppers Drug Mart

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DEERFIELD, Ill.

Walgreens on Wednesday confirmed that Chong Bang, the merchandising executive in charge of the company’s vaunted Customer Centric Retailing initiative, will leave the company to take a position with Toronto-based Shoppers Drug Mart. His effective departure date is Dec. 18.

Bang, a five-year Walgreens merchandising veteran, is currently a divisional VP and general merchandise manager in charge of the customer-centric program, photo and the additional front-end services offered at the photo department in Walgreens’ stores. He rose to prominence last fall with his appointment as head of CCR, a sweeping and even revolutionary project aimed at pulling together the chain’s sprawling marketing and merchandising activities and focusing them more sharply on meeting and anticipating customer demands. The effort has led to a significant reduction in the SKU count and product redundancies in Walgreens’ store prototype, a major realignment of categories and adjacencies at the front end, and an ongoing effort to align the chain’s purchasing and store presentation with localized consumer demand.

Bang was once described by former Walgreens chairman and CEO Jeff Rein as “a sharp, creative, humble and extremely approachable manager,” and his leadership will likely be missed at the 7,100-store retail giant. Nevertheless, said company spokesperson Tiffani Washington, “We have a deep bench of folks dedicated to CCR and its rollout, and that team will continue to work toward having about 3,000 stores converted to CCR in fiscal 2010.”

In an interview Wednesday, she added, “We appreciate all that Chong has done for the company over the last five years, and we wish him and his family well in his new position.”

In line with the massive renewal effort that began at Walgreens in the fall of 2008, Bang oversaw the development of the CCR project, its initial test in some 35 Walgreens units in several markets, and its expansion to some 400 stores in 2009, most of them in Dallas and Houston. That rollout will dramatically accelerate next year, Washington noted.

“We’re evaluating the findings from the Texas stores and will do some tweaking,” she told Drug Store News Wednesday. “We’ll continue the rollout [of the CCR-based store overhaul program] starting in January.”

Washington said it is not yet clear whether a single executive will replace Bang as divisional VP in charge of CCR. “Obviously,” she said, “that falls within the merchandising team under [VP merchandising] Bryan Pugh, and he has a deep bench of people working on extending the rollout.”

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