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CVS teams up with Mass. nonprofit to train young mothers

BY Gina Acosta

Eight young moms in the Boston area are getting a new start in life after completing a pharmacy technician training program through a partnership with CVS Health and a Massachusetts nonprofit, according to the Boston Globe.

The nonprofit, Roca, aims to keep high-risk young men and women out of jail and off the streets, and to give them a future, according to the Globe.

Five of the women were offered full-time jobs. Three recently started working as pharmacy technicians and one as an administrative assistant in CVS Pharmacy locations around Massachusetts. One is on maternity leave and will start as a pharmacy technician in September, according to the Globe.

“Our team has a mission of breaking the cycle of poverty, and that is, word for word, part of the mission of Roca,” David Casey, vice president for workforce strategies and chief diversity officer for CVS Health, told the Globe.

Read more about the program by clicking here.

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Experian report shows most effective marketing tools for the holidays

BY Gina Acosta

NEW YORK — New research from Experian Marketing Services points to five strategies that brands and retailers should implement to boost marketing plan performance during the key holiday shopping season.

According to Experian's Q2 2016 Email Benchmark Report, marketers should consider the quality of subscriber data obtained during acquisition, social media, creative content, email personalization and retention strategy.

“While the holidays may seem far away, now is the perfect time for marketers to begin preparing for this all-important season,” said Spencer Kollas, vice president of global deliverability for Experian Marketing Services. “By leveraging data from last year’s campaigns, as well as current market trends, brands can create more effective holiday marketing campaigns that increase engagement and improve the customer experience.”

Quality of subscriber data obtained at the point of sale (POS)
Marketers and retailers need to take the appropriate steps to improve the quality of the data obtained at the POS, as those subscribers often are highly engaged with the brand. In fact, between April 2015 and March 2016, welcome mailings to POS subscribers had a 32% higher click-to-open rate than for subscribers obtained from other sources (23.2% for POS compared with 17.5% from other sources). To ensure data quality, marketers should invest in real-time email validation technology, train store associates for data collection and have customers verify data in real time.

Social media
Targeting email subscribers based on their interest in social media can lead to high email engagement for brands. For example, welcome emails sent to subscribers who engaged via Facebook had an 11% higher click-to-open rate than other welcome emails from the same brand (22% for Facebook welcomes compared with 19.9 percent for other welcome emails).

Creative content
Fresh creative ideas that add a sense of urgency are an important strategy for holiday campaigns. During the 2015 holiday season, a number of brands leveraged countdown clocks that helped boost engagement performance. Marketing campaigns that included a dynamic countdown clock had a 41% higher click-to-open rate and more than double the transaction rate of other holiday mailings from the same brands.

Email personalization
Personalization can help boost performance of promotional emails. Based on data from April 2015 to March 2016, brands that included personalized subject lines experienced 27 percent higher unique click rates, 11 percent higher click-to-open rates and more than double the transaction rate compared with other promotional mailings.

“Nowadays there is an expectation among consumers that brands create personalized mailings that communicate relevant messages,” said Kollas. “While personalizing emails with a first name can be effective, marketers also should consider populating communications with more granular data points, such as purchase or browse behavior. When personalization is done correctly, marketers can create an improved customer journey.”

Retention strategy
A proper retention strategy can help brands keep holiday-season customers throughout the rest of the year. Brands that sent “thank you for your purchase” mailings saw twice the open and click rates, as well as five times the transaction rate, compared with promotional mailings. Additionally, promotional campaigns that included “our way of saying thanks” experienced two and a half times the transaction rate of other promotional mailings.

Email benchmarking trends
Findings from the report also highlight overall email marketing trends during the quarter. According to the analysis, email volume rose by 17.1% from a year ago. Diving a bit deeper, two-thirds of consumer products and services and 86% of media and entertainment brands showed year-over-year gains in email volume.

Other findings:
•         Despite the increase in email volume during the quarter, open and transaction rates remained steady from a year ago
•         Year-over-year unique click rates declined from 2% to 1.8%, while the actual number of clicks received in the quarter rose by 7%
•         Quarter-to-quarter email volume remained the same for Q2 compared with Q1 2016, but revenue per email rose from 6 cents to 7 cents in Q2

For a complimentary download of the full report, click here.

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Following disappointing quarter, new Fred’s CEO focuses on future

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Fred's Super Dollar on Tuesday reported a decline in total sales of 3% for the second quarter ended July 30, though the company posted total sales increases of 2.3% for the first half of 2016 as compared to the year-ago period.

"Looking at the quarter, we are disappointed with the company's performance, as comparable store sales were down in front store, retail pharmacy and specialty pharmacy," stated Michael Bloom, who was named CEO of Fred's earlier this morning. "The deleveraging impact of lower-than-plan sales, combined with a decline in gross margin rate for the pharmacy division – driven by generic deflation, reimbursement pressures and unexpected direct and indirect remuneration fees – accounted for the quarter's net loss and [today's] revision in guidance for 2016," he said. "While we did see progress on initiatives in the front store delivering improved gross margins and operating profit, the headwinds in pharmacy and competitive pressures in the front store were deeper than anticipated."

Bloom noted that Fred's has new initiatives that will launched in the back half of 2016 that will help set the stage to combat these headwinds. "We remain confident that the ongoing plan will result in improved company performance over the long term," he said.

Comparable store sales for the second quarter declined 2% versus an increase of 0.9% in the second quarter last year, while comparable store sales for the first half of 2016 decreased 0.6% versus an increase of 0.7% in the prior-year period.

The sales decline contribued to a net loss of $6.9 million, or ($0.18) per share, for the second quarter ended July 30. For the first six months of 2016, Fred's net loss totaled $5.7 million or ($0.15) per share.

Separately, Fred's also reported sales for the four-week fiscal month ended August 27, 2016. Fred's total sales for the month declined 3.5% to $159.6 million from $165.3 million in August 2015. Comparable store sales for August declined 3% versus an increase of 1.2% in the year-earlier month.

"Retail sales in the front store and pharmacy departments were pressured less in August than in July, but still experienced unfavorable sales trends in categories such as food, beverage, paper and household chemicals," Bloom added. "Specialty pharmacy comparable sales continued to be affected by the industry-wide slowdown in demand for specialty Hepatitis C drugs and the lag of onboarding new sales people."

Over the course of the next year, Fred's will be repositioning its business in pursuit of growth, Bloom noted. "We are at an inflection point as a company," he said. "Our key areas of focus will be to optimize our store fleet and supply chain, focus on markets where we can win, make additional investments in marketing and technology, all to enable growth with discipline. We will take this next 6-12 months to catch up on needed competitive and structural strategies. We can be the best in the rural markets we serve; we know who our customers are and what they need; and we can deliver access to pharmacy and healthcare services as well as a broad, value-based assortment of products. These new areas of focus will help us achieve our goal of generating returns in excess of our cost of capital."

Fred's gross profit for the second quarter of 2016 decreased 2.9% to $128.1 million from $131.9 million in the prior-year period. Gross margin for the quarter remained flat at 24.2% compared to the same quarter last year. Gross profit for the first half of 2016 increased 0.2% to $269.5 million from $269.0 million in the prior-year period. Gross margin for the first half of 2016 deleveraged 50 basis points to 25.0% from 25.5% in the prior-year period.

Based on recent sales trends and Fred's near-term outlook, the company expect changes in both total sales and comparable store sales to range from negative 1% to a positive 1% for the second half of the year.
 

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