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NRF study forecasts another year of slow sales

BY Doug Desjardins

NEW YORK The National Retail Federation said it expects retail sales to remain slow well into 2009 with shoppers flocking to discount stores for lower prices.

During an Aug. 28 conference call with analysts, NRF spokesman Scott Krugman said high gas prices, inflation and the housing slump should continue to produce a tough environment for retailers. He said the NRF is forecasting a 3.5 percent increase in total growth for 2008 following a 3.7 percent increase in 2007.

“And those numbers aren’t as good as they sound because we’re coming off a year of easy comps,” said Krugman.

The NRF won’t release its holiday sales forecast until September but it’s not likely to bring good news. “We don’t see a turnaround until, at the earliest, the second half of next year and even that may be optimistic,” said Krugman.

The NRF also re-affirmed its forecast for back-to-school spending, which predicts families with children in kindergarten through 12th grade will spend $599.24 compared with $563.49 in 2007, with parents focusing on essential items. It forecasts a 7 percent drop in spending for back-to-college students with an average of $599 per student compared with $641 last year.

NRF data also shows the number of people shopping at discount retailers increased 7 percent this year, as shoppers hunt for lower prices.

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CVS looks to donate more than 2,500 backpacks to needy schoolchildren

BY Alaric DeArment

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS/pharmacy hopes to provide school supplies for 2,600 children in need in the Washington area, with the help of the local NBC affiliate.

The drug store chain announced Tuesday that it would sell backpacks filled with more than a dozen school supplies at its stores for $12.99 for customers to donate to the Backpacks 4 Kids program. The supplies are valued at more than $25.

The backpacks and school supplies collected through the program are given to pre-selected schools and non-profit organizations to distribute to children in need. Customers at CVS/pharmacy can also purchase school supplies for donation.

The backpacks are available at CVS/pharmacy stores in Washington and surrounding cities in Virginia and Maryland. Last year, the program donated 2,300 backpacks.

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Sammons’ speech to Rite Aid associates very positive

BY Michael Johnsen

BALTIMORE Rite Aid is looking up, Mary Sammons, Rite Aid chairman, president and chief executive officer, told Rite Aid associates last week at the 2008 Rite Aid Management Conference and Supplier Exhibition. “The momentum is with us to have positive comp sales in all of our stores in Q3,” she said, noting that the Brooks/Eckerd assimilation was nearly complete. All systems conversions were completed in May; each of the six distribution centers is online; and Rite Aid’s planograms have been ceded into all former Brooks/Eckerd store fronts.

And to help fuel that momentum going forward, Rite Aid has generated hundreds of thousands of new prescriptions out of its “Fill Up and Fuel Up” program—in shich customers transferring prescriptions receive a $30 Rite Aid gift card and a chance to win a year’s worth of gas.

And to entice even more seniors to shop Rite Aid, the chain is continuing to promote its Living More senior loyalty card program and will introduce a new health and wellness program in September.

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