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AAA: Thanksgiving travel will be up despite economic uncertainty

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Despite continued economic uncertainty, more Americans are expected to choose family over finances, resulting in first significant increase in any holiday travel this year, AAA announced Thursday.

AAA forecasts 42.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a 4% increase from people who traveled one year ago. This is the first significant increase in any holiday travel this year.

“Driving AAA’s projected increase in the number of Thanksgiving travelers is pent-up demand from Americans who may have foregone holiday travel the last three years,” Travel Services VP Bill Sutherland said. “As consumers weigh the fear of economic uncertainty and the desire to create lasting family memories this holiday, more Americans are expected to choose family and friends over frugality," he said.

“This is the first significant increase in any holiday travel this year,” Sutherland added. “Memorial Day travel was statistically flat while Independence Day and Labor Day travel experienced decreases of 2.5% and 2.4%, respectively.”

While primary economic drivers continue to show improvement from one year ago, growth levels are not high enough to support a quick return to prerecession levels of holiday travel. Rather a slow climb back is expected from 2008 which was a decade-low year for Thanksgiving travel, with only 37.8 million Americans taking a trip. With volumes still below historical averages, pent-up demand will be a contributing factor in increased holiday travel, despite current economic conditions.

Total economic activity, measured as real gross domestic product, is expected to grow by just 1.3% for fourth quarter 2011, compared with fourth quarter 2010. The national unemployment rate is expected to be just fourth-tenths of a percentage point below last year’s level. Personal income, real disposable income and consumer spending are all forecast above last year’s levels. However, the growth rates of these indicators are weaker than last year, and Americans are expressing uncertainty about the future by way of weaker consumer sentiment and consumer comfort survey results. In particular, household net worth is expected to be 5.6% lower in the fourth quarter of this year compared to last year.

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Nov. 27.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2011 Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast can be found here.

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Walgreens on Black Friday will unveil retail mobile coupon program

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Thursday added scannable coupons to its mobile applications, with exclusive discounts to its smartphone customers, beginning on Black Friday.

Coupons will range in value from 50 cents to $5 and will be good toward a variety of products, including beauty items, gifts, consumables and everyday essentials, such as diapers. Scannable coupons provide optimal convenience with no clipping or printing required. Cashiers simply scan a coupon straight from a user’s smartphone.

With mobile scanning capabilities at all of the more than 7,700 Walgreens stores nationwide, this is the largest retail mobile coupon program in the United States, Walgreens said.

“We’re enhancing the shopping experience by giving our mobile customers greater convenience and exclusive savings during the holiday season,” Walgreens president of e-commerce Sona Chawla said.  “Through our mobile application, no matter where people are, they can find an easy way to save next time they come to Walgreens — just download the app and you’re ready to shop.”

Coupons will be offered through the Walgreens mobile application from Nov. 25 through Dec. 24.  Details regarding post-Christmas coupon programs are not yet available.

The Walgreens mobile application is free and can be downloaded by searching for “Walgreens” in smartphone application stores or marketplaces for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

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MinuteClinic becomes participating provider with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — MinuteClinic announced on Thursday that it has become a contracted provider with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, which provides health insurance products, services or networks to 1.2 million individuals.
 
Under the agreement, these individuals now will have access to 16 MinuteClinic walk-in medical clinics located inside select CVS/pharmacy stores in communities throughout the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas.

"This is an important development in the growth of our business in Arizona as we expand access to care to thousands of new patients," said Andrew Sussman, president of MinuteClinic and SVP/associate chief medical officer at CVS Caremark. "By offering high quality treatment in a convenient setting, we can work with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona to help reduce health care insurance expenses for its members as well as time spent away from members’ families and the workplace."


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