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The Little Clinic names new chief medical officer

BY Antoinette Alexander

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. ­— The Little Clinic has announced the appointment of Kenneth Patric as its new chief medical officer, providing medical oversight and management, and overseeing the development and implementation, of new clinical programs and initiatives for The Little Clinic on a national level.

"Dr. Patric brings both administrative and clinical experience to our company," stated Mike Stoll, CEO for The Little Clinic. "He understands the value of retail healthcare in today’s marketplace and will ensure that we continue to offer consumers an affordable, high-quality experience."

Patric joins The Little Clinic with more than 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry, including 15 years with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee where he began in 1994 as associate medical director and ended as VP and chief medical officer of Commercial Markets in 2009. He has most recently served as a staff physician at the Center for Family Medicine by Physicians Care in Chattanooga, Tenn.

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A&P to sell 25 Superfresh stores

BY Gail Hoffer

MONTVALE, N.J. — A&P continues to implement its turnaround strategy with the announcement that it is filing a motion seeking court approval of bidding procedures to market and sell 25 Superfresh stores in two southern states and the District of Columbia.

A&P, which filed for bankruptcy in December 2010, earlier this year revealed plans to shutter 32 stores in six states and bolstered its merchandising and marketing team with the appointment of six new executives.

The 25 Superfresh locations to be put up for sale under the proposed bidding process include 22 in Maryland, two in Delaware and one in the District of Columbia. Any sales resulting from the proposed bidding process are expected to be completed by mid-June, subject to court approval, the company reported.

A&P president and CEO Sam Martin said, “The company has been working hard to implement our turnaround strategy since last year. As part of our ongoing review of our store footprint, we determined that these 25 Superfresh locations are outside A&P’s core market. While the decision to put these non-core stores up for sale will unfortunately impact some of our customers, partners, communities and associates, this is a necessary step in our efforts to restore the company to long-term financial health.”

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Supervalu turnaround on track

BY Michael Johnsen

MINNEAPOLIS — Supervalu on Thursday reported better-than-expected results with an earnings per share of 44 cents, which was 10 cents above analyst consensus of 34 cents.

“A lower-than-expected tax rate and LIFO charge helped by about 4 cents; the company still cleanly beat consensus,” noted Credit Suisse director equity research Ed Kelly. “It’s obvious that the company pulled back on the unsuccessful promotions initiated last quarter.”

The company’s success was reflected in its share price — late morning trading was more than $1 higher than Wednesday’s close of $9.08 per share to $10.19.

"In the fourth quarter, our transformation initiatives helped us execute more effective promotions that contributed to stronger-than-anticipated results," stated Craig Herkert, Supervalu CEO and president. “We enter fiscal 2012 with momentum, a solid plan and new capabilities to drive our business transformation, invest in price and deliver sequential improvement to [identical-store] sales.

"We must improve our pricing. … However, we are sensitive in how we go about this," Herkert said. Supervalu is looking to move away from “ridiculously high” nonpromotional pricing coupled with “ridiculously low” promotional pricing, and toward a more everyday low price strategy, where everyday pricing is relative to local competitors.

Herkert noted that some early wins have been realized through the company’s new promotional tools, including one that helps project promotional success based on historical metrics. The Minnesota grocer also is testing a tool that helps improve in-stock positions with tracking metrics both by item and by time of day.

Herkert also spoke to Supervalu’s need to better partner with suppliers on merchandising and promotions. “This is a great opportunity for suppliers who genuinely want to partner with Supervalu,” he said.

Also driving the turnaround is a detailed plan “to become America’s neighborhood grocer,” Herkert said, which incorporates the adoption of a new shared culture across Supervalu’s banners. To help foster that localized appeal, directors at the store level have been given greater latitude to merchandise per the needs of their neighborhoods.

Supervalu’s Save-a-Lot deep discount banner continues to be a focus of growth for the company. “[The format] caters to households with annual incomes of less than $45,000,” Herkert said, and works equally well in both urban and rural areas.

Supervalu is projecting a fiscal 2012 capital expenditure of between $700 million and $750 million, which includes as many as 200 new Save-a-Lot stores, both corporate owned-and-operated and franchised. Much of that expansion may target “food deserts” where there is an unmet need, Herkert suggested.

Management of Supervalu’s store brands were brought in-house in the past year, Herkert said, a factor that has helped increase penetration by 145 basis points to 19.3%.

Identical-store sales were down 5% across the chain. Supervalu’s Northeast banners weighed overall same-store sales down, Herkert told analysts — excluding Northeast stores, same-store sales would have been down 3.5%. Supervalu banner stores were relatively flat as compared with year-ago same-store sales, Herkert said.

Herkert expected significant improvements over the course of the coming year — same-store sales are projected to improve by 350 basis points over fiscal 2012.

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