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Longs earnings increase 33 percent

BY Doug Desjardins

Longs Drug reported a 33 percent increase in earnings of $25.7 million for its second quarter and completed its exit from three Western states. Same-store sales inched up 1 percent and revenue jumped 3 percent to $1.27 billion for the three-month period that ended July 26.

Pharmacy same-store sales increased 1.8 percent for the quarter with pharmacy benefit service revenues increasing 4.7 percent to $79 million. “In addition to RX America’s growth, we made strong progress in our retail segment by aligning and upgrading our store base, increasing our self-distribution of front-end merchandise, installing supply chain system technology and improving our operations,” said Longs CEO Warren Bryant.

During the quarter, Longs added eight new stores, remodeled 11 and closed 16. Those closings completed its exit from Washington, Oregon and Colorado where it had 23 stores. Longs said it had no long-term expansion plans for those states and left them to focus on core markets like California and Hawaii.

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Aetna, Take Care sign national contract; rapid clinic growth is predicted

BY Antoinette Alexander

CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. Take Care Health Systems, a subsidiary of Walgreens, has signed a national contract with Aetna to become part of its national network of providers.

The move not only further broadens Take Care Health’s base of patients covered nationwide, but, according to at least one industry observer, fosters clinic growth over the coming years.

“This is yet one more step that should support rapid clinic growth over the next five years,” stated Goldman Sachs analyst John Heinbockel in a research note. “This growth could, over time, visibly contribute to Walgreens’ top- and bottom-line growth rates.”

Aetna serves more than 15 million medical members and, in Heinbockel’s view, gives Take Care “added credibility and name recognition,” as well as a larger customer base to target.

“Take Care Health is serving a critical need in the U.S. health care system by providing access to quality, affordable health care, while integrating with the medical community to deliver patient-first care,” stated Peter Miller, president and chief executive officer of Take Care Health, which currently has 56 health clinics in operation. “Americans have embraced the concept. We have seen nearly 200,000 patients with consistently high patient satisfaction rates since opening our first centers in November 2005.”

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Rite Aid fills No. 2 position

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. Rite Aid Corp. Wednesday morning stated that Robert Easley, 48, a 16-year veteran of the H.E. Butt Grocery Co. with extensive experience in store operations, pharmacy, marketing and management, will join Rite Aid as chief operating officer.

Easley most recently served as senior vice president, chief marketing officer and head of pharmacy for the $11.5 billion H-E-B chain.

Jim Mastrian, currently Rite Aid chief operating officer, will become special adviser on corporate strategy, reporting directly to Rite Aid chairman, president and chief executive officer Mary Sammons. Mastrian will focus on Rite Aid’s strategic direction and initiatives, with particular emphasis on the integration of the Brooks Eckerd drugstore chain.

“It’s important we continue to build a strong executive team and evolve our long-term strategy to take the company to the next level,” Sammons stated. “Jim and I have been working together for some time to build the succession plan for Rite Aid, searching for talented and experienced leaders who can build on the significant changes Jim has made to improve our operations and strengthen our company. … We both look forward to working with Rob who has excelled in so many areas in retail, from store operations and pharmacy to marketing and store development. His involvement in all areas of the business at H-E-B, which is known as one of the most innovative and successful retailers in the country, will be a great asset to Rite Aid now and in the future.”

“Rob comes to Rite Aid with a very successful track record at H-E-B, including improving store execution, strengthening pharmacy and helping create a customer-driven culture,” Mastrian said. “His experience will help us continue to build on the substantial improvement we’ve made to our business and position us well for the future.”

In his new position, Easley will have overall responsibility for all store operations, category management, marketing, merchandising, supply chain and pharmacy services and operations, reporting directly to Sammons. He joins Rite Aid Aug. 20.

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