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Home office products build momentum

BY DSN STAFF

Drug stores have a fairly low profile when it comes to the home office category, but some now are carrying a wider array of products as small electronics become a bigger part of the overall general merchandise mix.

Leading that effort is Walgreens. In 2007, it became the industry leader in inkjet cartridge refills when it rolled out the refill service to more than 3,000 stores. And as a complement to that business, it’s now selling several different printers with some priced as high as $250.

“[Printers] are only available online now, but people can order them in stores and have them delivered to the store or their home,” said Walgreens spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce.

Printers available on the Walgreens Web site include a Lexmark X8350 multi-function printer for $249 and a Canon Selphy compact photo printer for $109. Walgreens also sells such office accessories as the Allsop metal art printer and monitor stand for $59 and a Fellowes printer and office machine desktop stand for $69.

Bruce also noted that though Walgreens is trying to get consumers in the habit of refilling cartridges, the chain still carries a wide range of generic and name-brand refill cartridges in stores and online.

Rite Aid also carries a large selection of home office products in its GM aisles and probably has the most diverse line. Like Walgreens, it sells printers but actually stocks two models in stores: a basic printer from Lexmark for $49 and a fax machine/printer from Sharp that retails for $59.

It also carries such office accessories as a paper shredder from Royal, a desktop stand for laptop computers from Rolodex and a wide range of printer paper, folders and inkjet cartridges. And some stores carry larger accessories, such as office chairs with leather seats and folding tables and chairs. And it stocks electronic accessories associated with home computers, including surge protectors, floppy disks and portable battery chargers.

One new product area that stores are delving into is do-it-yourself refill kits for inkjet cartridges. Longs Drug now stocks the universal refill kit from NCR that allows people to refill their own cartridges at home with kits for both black and color refills. The kits come with four refills for black ink cartridges, along with two vials of cleaning solutions and the tools needed to do refills. Longs stores also carry inkjet cartridges for multiple printers from Hewlett Packard and Lexmark.

CVS tends to relegate its home office selection to low-priced, basic items that generate frequent buys. It carries a wide array of inkjet refill cartridges from Hewlett Packard and Lexmark, along with 25-foot telephone line cords, three-line phone jacks from Philips and cans of compressed air from Dust Off for computer cleaning and maintenance.

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S&P revises outlook on Rite Aid

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services revised its outlook on chain drug retailer Rite Aid to negative from stable, the firm reported Friday. At the same time, S&P affirmed the ‘B’ corporate credit rating on Rite Aid.

“The outlook change reflects the company’s weak same-store sales and our expectation that this trend will continue over the next few quarters,” stated Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Diane Shand. Rite Aid faces a more cautious consumer, strong growth of lower-priced generics and intense competition, she said. In addition, the current environment could make it more challenging for the company to integrate its recently-acquired Brooks/Eckerd stores.

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Boston Mayor decries in-store health clinics

BY Antoinette Alexander

BOSTON On the heels of the Massachusetts Public Health Council approving regulations allowing for in-store health clinics in the state, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is reportedly looking to ban the clinics from opening in the city.

The decision by the health council “jeopardizes patient safety,” Menino said in a written statement, according to a Boston Globe report. “Limited service medical clinics run by merchants in for-profit corporations will seriously compromise quality of care and hygiene. Allowing retailers to make money off of sick people is wrong.”

The newspaper also reported that, in a separate letter, the mayor urged members of the city’s Public Health Commission to consider banning the clinics from opening within Boston. CVS has plans to open 20 to 30 MinuteClinics in the Greater Boston area but it is unclear how many of those would be within the city’s limits.

Defending its decision to allow clinics to operate, the state Public Health Council issued a statement that read: “The members of the Public Health Council were deliberative and thoughtful in their review of the limited service clinic regulation. We believe these types of clinics, operated either as part of a retail operation or in a nonprofit setting, can provide the public access to safe, convenient, and quality care for minor health issues.”

Officials at MinuteClinic were not immediately available for comment.

On Jan. 9, the state Public Health Council approved rules for limited service medical clinics. The new regulations took effect immediately.

“This is a new model for health care delivery that can benefit many people in the Commonwealth. These regulations will improve consumer convenience and make it easier for non-profit organizations to establish satellite clinics in a variety of settings to serve vulnerable populations,” stated secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby in a statement issued after the approval.

Added John Auerbach, commissioner of the Department of Public Health and chair of the PHC, “Properly regulated, these types of clinics will serve an important function, making care for minor medical care more convenient. The council was mindful of not wanting to create a stand-alone system of health care, so these regulations require coordination and linkages to primary care providers.”

The approval came at the end of a long review process that included two public hearings and the submission of hundreds of pages of testimony regarding the regulations, including testimony in favor of the clinics from the Convenient Care Association.

“We appreciate the Public Health Council’s careful deliberation regarding the adopted regulations that will now guide the operation of limited services clinics in Massachusetts. These retail-based clinics are providing consumers in 35 other states with easy access to high-quality, affordable health care in the face of a nationwide primary care physician shortage. Since this growing shortage is well documented in Massachusetts, and its related health care access issues have been exacerbated by the state’s near-universal healthcare coverage, we appreciate the Council embracing limited services clinics as a partial solution to these serious problems,” said Web Golinkin, president of the CCA and chief executive officer of in-store clinic operator RediClinic, in a statement issued after the council’s decision.

Sparking the move to create specialized regulations for these clinics was CVS’ application to open a MinuteClinic in one of its stores in Weymouth. According to the council, early in the application review process it became clear that DPH regulations governing medical clinics did not address the operation of medical clinics with limited scope of services. Rather than consider applications requiring numerous waivers from full-service clinic regulations, the department decided to create a specialized set of rules.

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