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Pharmacies bind communities as storms test industry’s mettle

BY DSN STAFF

NEW ORLEANS —The names sound as benign as a list of family members: Fay, Gustav, Hanna, Ike. But for many Americans living in a huge swath of the coastal United States running from Texas and Louisiana, across to Florida and up through the Carolinas, those names now evoke bitter memories of flood damage, evacuation, danger and disruption.

As of press time Sept. 11, three major hurricanes or tropical storms had lashed their way through communities within that 1,500-mile arc within a few short weeks. A fourth, Hurricane Ike, was bearing down on Texas with hurricane-force winds and promises of more destruction. And retail pharmacy was proving, once again, that it can help communities prepare for the disasters and recover more quickly from their aftermath.

Such chains as Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid put additional pharmacists on standby, trucked in emergency supplies and were prepared to set up mobile locations and bring in additional pharmacy staff if needed.

Rx Response, developed in response to Hurricane Katrina, was activated as a point of contact for the entire pharmaceutical supply system to help coordinate relief efforts. It relies on “a robust network that allows federal and state emergency-management officials to communicate with Rx Response regarding pharmaceutical needs and other issues which may impact the supply system,” the group noted.

Among its members: the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, the American Red Cross and the American Hospital Association.

As for the role played by the chain drug store industry, “NACDS is communicating with their members about efforts such as Rx Response, and will continue to work in tandem to help maintain access during this time in the Gulf Coast region,” NACDS spokeswoman Chrissy Kopple told Drug Store News.

With one storm after another smashing into the United States, store closings were common, particularly in areas under evacuation order. But pharmacy operators learned many lessons in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation three years ago, including how to better coordinate the movement of people and supplies, how to better track patients in need of their prescriptions and how to get stores back up and running more quickly.

The result—at least as of press time—has been far less disruption and a far more effective response. Walgreens, for instance, closed 69 stores in the Gulf region during Hurricane Gustav, but within days had reopened all but nine units. CVS, with about 160 stores in the Gulf region, and Rite Aid, which has some 200 stores in the region, also were both able to reactivate operations rapidly.

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Winn-Dixie completes 100th store remodel

BY Michael Johnsen

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Less than 18 months after announcing a major remodel initiative for all of its 521 stores, Winn-Dixie Stores, on Thursday announced the completion of remodel No. 100.

The newest remodeled store, in the Miami suburb of Hialeah, is celebrating its grand opening today.

The Hialeah store showcases the company’s fresh and local strategic initiative—an updated storefront, combined with expanded produce and floral departments. The store’s deli and bakery were upgraded with a wood-burning rotisserie and bread warmer, a wing bar, an olive bar and a specialty dessert case. The store also features new energy-efficient refrigerators and frozen food cases as well as new wood flooring and a contemporary color palette.

“This is not only a milestone for our Company, but it also symbolizes the hard work and dedication of our associates and the loyalty of our customers,” stated Peter Lynch, Winn-Dixie’s chairman, chief executive officer and president. “It’s all about being fresh and local—from our decor to our merchandising and marketing initiatives, we are tailoring every detail of our remodeled stores to meet the needs of neighborhoods we serve. As the remodel program moves forward, we will have a significantly stronger store base from which to compete and leverage the strength of our brand. We plan to remodel half the chain by June 2010.”

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Longs to carry GE digital cameras

BY Michael Johnsen

TORRANCE, Calif. Already distributed through Walgreens, General Imaging, the worldwide exclusive licensee for GE digital cameras, may be getting a foot in the door with CVS with Thursday’s announcement that its retail camera line is to be picked up by Longs Drug beginning in October.

Under the agreement, Longs stores will stock three models—the A730 Black, the A835 Black and the A1030 Red.

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