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Pushing Rx to help employers ‘Be Well’

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Meijer has launched a new, smaller prototype that provides pharmacy with a higher operational profile in a critical market. The format was developed with the Chicago market in mind, but it could be popping up in more locations as Meijer explores the strengths of its operations in more densely populated geographies.

Because the new format considerably cuts back on general merchandise, it is described by the retailer as pharmacy- and grocery-focused. So Meijer is, essentially, counting on the initiatives it has launched in those operations to sell the store to new customers. Of course, Meijer has been among the most eager proponents of providing free antibiotics to establish itself as a family-oriented retailer.

The company’s first smaller-format store had a January launch in the Chicago suburb of Niles, Ill. At 102,000 sq. ft., it comes in at about half the size of a typical Meijer supercenter. A second smaller-format Meijer is preparing to launch in Orland Park, another Chicago suburb. Frank Guglielmi, a Meijer spokesman, said the pharmacy is similarly located to the retailer’s supercenters. “It’s still up on the corner of grocery with health-and-beauty aids,” he said. “And it still has a drive-through.”

MEIJER

Headquarters: Grand Rapids, Mich.2009 sales: $15.1 billion% change vs. 2008: 2.7%No. of stores: 190No. of stores with Rx: 190Avg. store size: 205,000 sq. ft.Rx sales: $453 million% of sales from Rx: 3%Sales per store: $79.5 million

Source: Company reports

Meijer is promoting free antibiotics and prenatal vitamins to help draw customers to its new stores. The retailer added free antibiotics in 2006 and free prenatal vitamins in 2008. The program is widely popular with customers in Michigan, where the company is headquartered, and in the rest of its market area, including Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. “We’re over 5 million free antibiotic prescriptions filled, and over half a million prenatal vitamin scripts filled,” Guglielmi said.

Building on an initiative it launched in 2008, Meijer continues to expand Be Well, a program that offers a range of health-related services through a partnership with 4D Pharmacy Management Systems. Meijer provides employers that contract with 4D the chance to sign up for Be Well for an expanded employee benefits package that includes everyday discounts on private-label vitamins, minerals, supplements and organic food. While it isn’t ready to make any major announcements on Be Well, Guglielmi said the program continues to add companies and remains in growth mode.

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