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Majority of Buffalo, N.Y., Rite Aid stores converted to Wellness format

BY Alaric DeArment

BUFFALO, N.Y. — New York state’s second-largest city has become the first market in which a majority of Rite Aid’s stores have been converted to the Wellness format, the retail pharmacy chain announced Wednesday.

Nearly 100 stores in Buffalo, N.Y., have been converted to the format. Rite Aid chairman, president and CEO John Standley, COO Ken Martindale and celebrity fitness expert Denise Austin appeared at an event at one of the stores, in the village of Williamsville, to celebrate the milestone and to launch a series of events at stores throughout the area that will take place during the summer.

"Our Buffalo ‘Road to Wellness’ began in 2009, when we selected it as one of four markets to pilot our Wellness+ customer loyalty program," Martindale said. "As the leading drug store chain in the greater Buffalo area, it’s only fitting that we’re here today celebrating another milestone in our company’s history. Over the past two years, we’ve invested millions of dollars as we’ve remodeled our Rite Aid pharmacies across the region to help Buffalonians as well."

Since the 2011 introduction of the format, Rite Aid has converted more than 800 stores. The most recent version of the format debuted at its store in Lemoyne, Pa., featuring a remodeled interior and expanded product selection. Photographs of the Lemoyne store can be seen here. The Williamsville store also has an updated design, having been completed in February this year.

Later this month, stores around Buffalo will sponsor free diabetes screenings, followed by skin cancer screenings next month and events focused on seniors’ wellness and heart health in July and August.

The Rite Aid Foundation, of which Martindale is president, will give grants to local charities focused on children’s health and well-being. Cradle Beach, which serves 1,100 disabled and disadvantaged children in the area, will receive $25,000 to expand school-based and summer programs to children in third through fifth grades at a local elementary school, while the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western New York will receive $10,000 to provide short- and long-term housing to families with children receiving treatment at local hospitals.

 

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Specialty Pharmacy Certification Board to start offering certification exam in October

BY Alaric DeArment

TAMPA, Fla. — The outline of an exam that will be used to certify pharmacists working in the specialty channel has received approval from the Specialty Pharmacy Certification Board, the group said Tuesday.

The SPCB said it would start offering the Certified Specialty Pharmacist exam to eligible candidates starting in October. The exam consists of four domains: Domain I — Intake, which constitutes 25% of the exam; Domain II — Clinical Management, constituting 40%; Domain III — Fulfillment, constituting 25%; and Domain IV — Outcomes, constituting 10%.

"SPCB has completed the process to define and validate the specialty pharmacist’s role," SPCB interim executive director Gary Cohen said. "These standards of practice will help advance our industry and assure the protection of the public."

The group said it used a comprehensive process consistent with national standards and used by certification programs across industries to define current practice in terms of the tasks performed and skills needed by specialty pharmacists to perform tasks related to their profession. The blueprint of the exam used a national survey of hundreds of specialty pharmacists.


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Senate approves online sales tax bill, House next stop for Marketplace Fairness Act proponents

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Monday passed the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would enable states to collect sales tax on online transactions, to widespread applause from big-box retail. If passed the act would remove the up-to 7% price advantage out-of-state online retailers have over brick-and-click or brick-and-mortar retailers operating and collecting sales taxes within the state. (For a comprehensive list of state sales taxes, click here.) 

For national omnichannel retailers like Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, this bill may push the value quotient back to convenience and service over strictly price. Online-only retailer Amazon.com has also placed its support behind this bill, according to published reports, as the virtual big-box retailer contemplates expanding into other states with distribution centers to enable faster delivery speeds. 

“This legislation would modernize sales tax policy to reflect the marketplace as it exists today,” stated Steve Anderson, president and CEO for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. “When it comes to updating this outdated policy, every day of inaction is another day of discrimination against brick-and-mortar retailers. NACDS commends the Senate for true leadership in recognizing a necessary change for fairness and fiscal responsibility.”

However, smaller retailers who have extended their market reach into other states by way of the Internet stand in marked opposition to the legislation, claiming that the additional cost in collecting the state taxes could put them out of business. 

The measure would give states the ability to require retailers with more than $1 million in annual sales to collect state and local sales taxes for online purchases. Currently, the law requires an online retailer to collect sales tax only on products shipped to states in which the retailer has a physical presence, including a store or a distribution center, and places the collection onus on the consumer. Consumers are required to file "use taxes" for those online purchases where they did not pay a state sales tax. But few consumers ever do.

The National Conference of State Legislators estimates that the current laws prevented states from collecting $23 billion in sales tax revenue.

“The law and its interpretation by the courts date back to the pre-Internet era,” Anderson said. “There is no way the Marketplace Fairness Act can be labeled a ‘new tax’ with a straight face. It is a long-overdue application of existing sales tax laws. The only thing new here is fairness.”

The legislation has now moved to the House of Representatives, where a bill sponsored by Reps. Steve Womack, R-Ariz. and Jackie Speier, D-Calif., has generated strong bipartisan support, according to the Retail Industry Leaders Association. It currently has more than 60 House cosponsors, the association noted.

“For too long the Main Street retailers that are an integral part of their communities have faced tax rules that put them at a disadvantage to their out-of-state, online-only competitors," commented Bill Hughes, RILA SVP government affairs. "The Senate has voted to ensure that the market, not government, determines winners and losers,” he said. “We are confident the House will reach the same conclusion." 

The Food Marketing Institute also stated its support for the Senate action. “The current state of inconsistent sales and use tax collection in the United States makes legislation like the Marketplace Fairness Act a necessity,” commeted Jennifer Hatcher, SVP government and public affairs for FMI. “The bill simply makes it clear that states have the authority to require online retailers to collect sales and use taxes, as long as the state complies with simplification requirements designed to ease the burden of collection on retailers.”

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