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Alec Baldwin stars in Wegmans commercials

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Wegmans recently tapped Alec Baldwin for a series of holiday commercials this year, in part because his mother is a loyal shopper of the popular East Coast supermarket chain.

According to published reports, Wegmans approached Baldwin after an appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman." Baldwin explained to Letterman that his mother wouldn’t retire to California because she wouldn’t leave Wegmans.

The two commercials to have aired to date both highlight value and personal service available at Wegmans.

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Black Friday weekend: A boon for retail industry, NRF finds

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — This Black Friday weekend proved to be a help to retailers, as shopper traffic and spending both increased, the National Retail Federation said.

While 212 million shoppers visited stores and websites this weekend, up from 195 million shoppers last year, the average shopper spend totaled $365.34 this weekend, a 6.4% increase from last year. Total spending reached an estimated $45 billion, NRF said.

What’s more, NRF revealed, Black Friday shopping began earlier, as midnight shopping increased — among those surveyed — to 9.5%, triple the amount of shoppers last year. By 4 a.m., nearly one-quarter (24%) of Black Friday shoppers already were at the stores. Thanksgiving Day openings also have been a boon to the industry, as the number of people who shop on Thanksgiving — both online and in stores — has doubled over the past five years, from 10.3 million in 2005 to 22.3 million in 2010.

As far as where shoppers headed this weekend, both department stores (52% this year versus 49.4% last year) and clothing stores (24.4% versus 22.9%) saw healthy increases in traffic, while the percentage of people who shopped at discounters declined 7.2% to 40.3% this year. Similarly, online shopping saw a boost this weekend, rising 15.2% to 33.6% this year — a strong sign heading into Cyber Monday, NRF said.

“While Black Friday weekend is not always an indicator of holiday season performance, retailers should be encouraged that a focus on value and discretionary gifts has shoppers in the spirit to spend,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “As retailers look ahead to the first few weeks of December, it will be important for them to keep momentum going with savings and incentives that holiday shoppers simply can’t pass up.”

NRF’s Black Friday weekend includes Thursday, Friday, Saturday and projected spending for Sunday.

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Private sector to drive health reform 2.0

BY DSN STAFF

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — This is part of the future of health care that Walgreens envisioned when it first began to make a major commitment to specialty pharmacy — it knew it could save payers and patients a whole lot of money.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens promotes big savings via monitored oncology Rx therapy. For the full story, click here)

This also is the future Drug Store News envisioned when we told readers that the next version of health reform — health reform 2.0, if you will — will likely favor more private-sector-driven solutions. How could it not?

Americans have been lukewarm about the Patient Care and Affordability Act since before it was actually signed into law, and while it was not the only reason conservatives were able to retake the House of Representatives in November, it was certainly on the list. There remains too much uncertainty about what it actually means for the average American who already has employer-provided insurance — how will the changes affect him or her?

Common sense dictates that the new group of lawmakers — not to mention members of Congress who managed to survive the mid-term elections — will be listening loud and clear for any suggestions the private sector might have about how to improve and expand health care, while also reducing costs and improving health outcomes.

The cost to treat cancer practically doubled between 1987 and 2005 to approximately $48 billion a year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During that time, in-patient costs dropped from about 64% of total cancer treatment costs to 27.5%. Meanwhile, the percentage of costs related to cancer drugs had risen from 1.8% to 6.1%.

Now Walgreens says it can trim the cost per patient by $2,000 to $4,000 a year by managing adherence among cancer patients more closely. According to the American Cancer Society, almost 12 million Americans suffered from cancer in 2007. That means there could be tens of billions of dollars at play, just for getting cancer patients to take their medications as they are supposed to.

Ironically, the fact that cancer still only represents about 5% of total healthcare costs in America is a further suggestion of what a big problem drug adherence is in this country, and the total role such retail health providers as Walgreens can have by giving health reform real teeth.

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