NewsBytes on CVS’ Merlo, Walmart health efforts, Michel now at Sears and more

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — The next chapter for CVS Caremark officially is under way. The company last month officially named Larry Merlo CEO, effective March 1. Tom Ryan will remain nonexecutive chairman until his retirement in May. Prior to the news, Merlo had been president and COO.

In related news, the company also pulled the plug on its plan to hire former Walmart exec Hank Mullany and has handed the keys to its retail business on an interim basis to Mike Bloom, EVP merchandising and supply chain, and Scott Baker, EVP internal operations and real estate. Bloom and Baker will report to Merlo while the company continues its search for a new president of its retail division.

WASHINGTON — Walmart executives joined First Lady Michelle Obama in Washington last month to unveil a comprehensive effort to provide Walmart customers with healthier and more affordable food choices. The program will involve five key elements:

  • Reformulating thousands of everyday packaged food items by 2015 by reducing sodium by 25% and added sugars by 10%, and by removing all remaining industrially produced trans fats;

  • Dramatically reducing or eliminating the price premium on key “better-for-you” items;

  • Developing strong criteria for simple front-of-package information;

  • Building more stores in underserved communities; and

Increasing charitable support for nutrition programs. 

WASHINGTON — Retailers are ready to expand again, and likely will do so as the economy picks up, according to a new survey conducted by the charitable arm of the National Retail Federation and KPMG. According to the report, 41% of executives are looking to expand their domestic reach in 2011, up from 25% last year. In addition, 75% of retailers said customer service will be a top priority (up from 56%), 69% will focus on mobile e-commerce and 74% will increase their consumer insight and data-gathering initiatives.

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Robin Michel has been tapped for an increasingly critical role at retail giant Sears Holdings. Michel, who left as president of Ahold USA’s Giant-Landover in December 2010, will serve as SVP and president of food and consumables, health and beauty, and pharmacy at Sears and its Kmart subsidiary.

CHICAGO — Walgreens’ massive Customer Centric Retailing initiative is only beginning, president and CEO Greg Wasson told shareholders last month.

“To date, we’ve converted or opened [more than] 2,100 stores to the CCR format, and a little [more than] 28% of the chain,” Wasson said. “This time next year, we will have converted or opened approximately 5,500 [CCR] stores, which is about 73% of the chain.” 

In addition, the chain will look to offer “a Duane Reade-like beauty department” and expand its fresh food offering.

(Editor’s Note: The Feb. 28 edition of DSN will include a special, in-depth report on Walgreens.)

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