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Beauty is increasingly about value

BY Antoinette Alexander

DENVER — Another NACDS Marketplace is nearing an end, and as I think about all of the beauty products I’ve seen this year on the show floor, I come away with this thought: Beauty is not just about making women (and men), well, beautiful. But it is increasingly about providing consumers with solutions that will save them time and money, and, perhaps even more importantly, provide value.

Now, I know that I’m not necessarily breaking new ground or telling you something you probably haven’t already heard, but that is my key takeaway as I get ready to board a plane to New York and reflect on my time spent in Denver.

For example, manufacturers increasingly are jumping aboard the at-home gel manicure bandwagon, offering women an at-home solution at a fraction of the cost. Some manufacturers prominently displayed their launches at the show, while others whispered plans of soon coming to market with their own variations.

And what about BB creams? As previously reported, these relatively new, multifunctional products — also referred to as “blemish balms” or “beauty balms” — combine the functionality of primers, SPF and moisturizers with the anti-aging benefits of skin serums.

Then there are such products as Razor Shield, which is designed to extend the life of any razor blade up to four times. That could save a pretty penny, when you think about, because razor blades can get quite costly.

Those manufacturers who are bringing to market products that save consumers time and provide value are on target, as evidenced by the data from SymphonyIRI Group. During Monday morning’s presentation, “Inside the Mind of the Shopper: Understanding the Difference in Motivation by Generations,” Navin Gautam, principal of client services for SymphonyIRI Group, stressed the importance of “delivering truly shopper-centric value.” He also noted that 35% of shoppers reported turning to at-home beauty treatments to curb costs.

Gautam also said that 75% of shoppers described themselves as either “deal hunters” or “budget shoppers.”

And brand loyalty? Well, only about 4% are brand loyalists, Gautam said. That’s not a lot.

So, the bottom line is that there are new value-conscious consumers out there walking the beauty aisles, and those products that deliver value, help them save money and make their lives just a little bit easier stand to win big.

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McKesson e-nables community pharmacy patient-, peer-engagement through social, mobile and web technologies

BY Rob Eder

LAS VEGAS — McKesson, one of the largest healthcare services companies in the country, on Monday extended its technology solutions to change the way community pharmacies collaborate, communicate and share information with customers and peers.

The new offerings, which debuted at McKesson’s annual ideaShare Conference, here at Las Vegas’ Venetian Resort — including the rapid adoption of the McKesson Connect Community, a professional networking site for pharmacy staff, as well as the new mobile capabilities of ScriptAlert and Health Mart’s new digital offering Your Pharmacy Online — give community pharmacy owners additional tools to help improve the way they run their business and enhance the way they care for their patients.

“Retail pharmacists are quickly realizing that social, mobile and Web platforms enable them to become more efficient while delivering better care to their patients,” said Brian Tyler, president of McKesson U.S. Pharmaceutical. “Community pharmacy owners continue to turn to McKesson to help them achieve better business health. By focusing on innovation and delivering technology solutions that are tailored for community pharmacy, our customers can connect with their patients and peers in entirely new ways.”

Taking a closer look, the new digital and mobile capabilities include:

• ScriptAlert: A new, robust direct-to-patient text messaging and mobile application that help independent pharmacy owners improve medication adherence, strengthen patient relationships and drive additional revenue with cost-effective technology. ScriptAlert provides patients with text-based refill reminders, refill notifications and auto-fill options, as well as a mobile prescription-management application that feeds directly into the pharmacy’s dispensing system.

"As we launch the ScriptAlert mobile application to give community pharmacies the ability to offer the convenience of on-the-go prescription management, we are very excited to highlight the pilot results, which show that patients using ScriptAlert could refill between one and two additional prescriptions a year*,” said Darren O’Neill, senior director of McKesson U.S. Pharmaceutical.  “Not only does this demonstrate strong potential to improve patient adherence, but also represents a lift in prescription revenue.”

“I have patients of all ages who are embracing the convenience of technology,” said Shelley Bailey, owner of Central Drugs in Portland, Ore. “ScriptAlert will allow me to provide my patients with choice and convenience built on advanced technology that is easy to implement and cost-effective.”

• McKesson Connect Community: Since launching in fall 2011, McKesson Connect Community has connected more than 1,500 members, including community pharmacy owners, pharmacists and technicians. Members gain access to the McKesson Connect Community through McKesson Connect, McKesson’s online pharmaceutical-ordering portal.

Members from across the country have participated in more than 500 discussions on McKesson Connect Community, leveraging the platform to share knowledge on such key pharmacy issues as protecting their reimbursements, finding new sources of revenue with additional clinical and pharmacy services, and growing their customer base.

“I had been looking for a fast, easy way to connect with other Health Mart and independent-pharmacy owners to share information and best practices, as I have many ideas, but few peers nearby to ask questions and share feedback with,” said Tom Wullstein, Pharm.D., Brandon Health Mart in Brandon, S.D. “I jumped onto the McKesson Connect Community immediately after it was launched and was probably one of the first 20 pharmacists to join. Now, I regularly respond to inquiries from other members and post questions — the answers to which have generated several new marketing ideas that have dramatically improved my business. McKesson Connect Community is a great destination for pharmacists seeking answers and knowledge from a community of their peers.”

• Your Pharmacy Online: Health Mart’s new consumer-facing online platform enables pharmacy owners to stay better connected with their patients, while still allowing each Health Mart pharmacy owner to showcase their own pharmacy’s distinctive personality and services. Through Your Pharmacy Online, Health Mart owners can attract new customers by customizing their online presence to promote events and promotions; maximize the value of existing customers by giving them more options to connect and refill prescriptions from their mobile devices, and giving the pharmacy more ways to connect with them via text messages and email refill reminders; and enhances business efficiency by feeding online refills directly into their pharmacy-management systems.

For more information on all of McKesson’s announcements from McKesson ideaShare 2012, please visit McKesson’s online newsroom at www.mckesson.com/newsroom.

* SOURCE: McKesson Clinical Analytics 2012. Based on 596 enrolled patients.
 

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Thinking globally: Will it work for WAG?

BY Jim Frederick

Is Walgreens’ decision to buy a major stake in European drug store giant Alliance Boots a good idea?

It could be — provided the combined entity, which would comprise the world’s biggest drug retailer and biggest purchaser of pharmaceuticals — successfully can leverage the unique strengths of each company, apply them to their respective markets and reap the billion dollars in synergistic savings Walgreens is predicting will occur by 2016. But for a company with no experience in European retailing and plenty of homefront headaches to deal with in mid-2012, spending $6.7 billion in cash and stock for a 45% stake in Boots is a big leap into the unknown.

Walgreens already operates drug stores in Puerto Rico and Guam. But ever since the company sold its Sanborns division in Mexico to Grupo Carso 30 years ago, its leaders have airily dismissed the notion — proposed by many retail analysts and reporters — of jumping outside the United States or its protectorates for new growth opportunities.

A succession of top company executives — from former chairman and CEO Cork Walgreen III to Fred Canning, Dan Jorndt, David Bernauer, Jeff Rein and current president and CEO Greg Wasson — traditionally have insisted there was no compelling need for the nation’s top drug chain to look beyond its own borders for growth. The rationale — that there still were too many rich veins of potential business to mine in too many cities and towns at “the corner of Main and Main” across the U.S. — made sense for a company able to open hundreds of fast-maturing new stores each year, notch more than 30 consecutive years of record profits, and reap same-store sales gains that were the envy of other retailers.

Those days are over. For Walgreens, which now competes against a slew of powerful national and local competitors with more than 7,800 pharmacies in all 50 states, much of the low-hanging expansion fruit has been picked, either by Walgreens or by its rivals. More pressing for the company is its costly divorce from pharmacy benefit management giant Express Scripts, many of whose millions of plan members are now getting their prescriptions filled elsewhere after the two companies failed to come to terms over reimbursement rates.

Add to that the still-tepid economic recovery and the serious challenge posed by its biggest rivals, CVS Caremark, Walmart and Rite Aid, all of which are making hay over the January termination of the Walgreens-Express Scripts contract by aggressively courting the drug store chain’s customers, and it’s perhaps no surprise that Walgreens’ leaders are thinking globally.

Wall Street investors clearly didn’t like the idea of a Walgreens-Alliance Boots merger, as seen by WAG’s falling stock price early last week. But don’t count the big guy out. Walgreens has more than a century of experience riding out tough economic times and competitive challenges. And it has plenty of weapons in its arsenal, with or without the addition of Boots: A rock-solid balance sheet, cash to invest, seasoned leadership, powerful economies of scale and a strategic determination to put its retail and specialty pharmacies, health clinics and employer-based health centers at the epicenter of a new, fully integrated healthcare system.

What do our readers think? Was WAG’s deal with Boots a bold and farsighted move to stake out a bigger piece of the world market for health, personal care and beauty products and services in the era of globalization, or a sign of desperation in the face of a challenging domestic market? We’d like to hear your views.

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