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Retailers, suppliers recover, provide relief in Sandy’s aftermath

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — The Northeast is still recovering from one of the worst disasters it has ever faced. Many residents remain without electrical power, while others have lost their entire homes, businesses, workplaces and in a growing number of cases, their lives.

Retailers were by no means left untouched. Some found themselves forced to close large numbers of stores, while others didn’t close any and kept themselves open for people who would be in need as the storm was bearing down on them. Suppliers also stepped in, as did nonprofit pharmacy organizations. Below are some highlights of how retailers and suppliers fared.

  • Walgreens closed 750 stores ahead of the hurricane, and as of Nov. 2, about 130 remained closed in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The company began stocking extra items like nonperishable foods, water, batteries and flashlights, as well as arranging special transportation and lodging for employees who depend on public transit and preparing 160 portable generators for rapid deployment to stores as needed and dry ice for medicines requiring referigeration. The company also donated $250,000 to the American Red Cross for storm-relief efforts and three semitrailers full of bottled water to a Red Cross center in New Jersey.

  • CVS/pharmacy closed “up to 800” stores ahead of the storm due to mandatory evacuation orders, and 60 remained closed at press time due to evacuations or power outages, spokesman Mike DeAngelis told DSN, and 90 were operating on generators. At the same time, 100 were operating without power, meaning they were operating in an “off-line mode” without generators. About 15 stores in New York and New Jersey experienced either a total inventory loss due to water damage or couldn’t be reached for a damage assessment, but the company has donated more than $100,000 to the American Red Cross National Disaster Relief Fund to provide support to affected communities and is distributing $50,000 worth of snacks and bottled water in New Jersey.

  • Rite Aid closed 790 stores at the height of the storm, and 188 remained closed or were operating without power as of Oct. 31. In addition, eight stores sustained “substantial damage,” and the company expected that number to increase as field leaders gained access to more locations, but the company was re-opening stores “as quickly as possible.” The Rite Aid Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm, donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross for relief efforts.

  • Sears Holdings, which operates the Sears and Kmart chains, had 187 stores closed at the height of the storm, but as of Nov. 1, that number was down to 40, while 20 were operating on generators or had generators en route, a representative of the company told DSN. The company announced that it would give out $350 million in rewards to Shop Your Way cardholders living in affected areas, amounting to $20 per cardholder. The company was also shipping extra supplies like flashlights, batteries, generators and sump pumps to stores.

  • Ahold USA, which operates 772 supermarkets under the Giant Food Stores, Martin’s Food Markets, Giant Food and Stop & Shop banners throughout the Northeast and Virginia, closed four stores, all in Stop & Shop’s New York-metro division, division spokeswoman Arlene Putterman told Drug Store News. One of the stores was in Long Island, N.Y., another was in Brooklyn and two were in New Jersey; the division has 184 stores total. Putterman said the stores would open periodically, starting the week of Nov. 5. Suzi Robinson, spokeswoman for Stop & Shop’s New England division, said the company had “deep experience” handing natural disasters and that all of the division’s 219 stores stayed open.

  • Supervalu closed all of the 117 Acme stores in the path of the storm on Monday, the day the storm made landfall, but had reopened all but four of them. “We want to make sure that anything we do really helps the communities that we serve,” Supervalu spokesman Mike Siemienas told DSN. “Our top priority right now is making sure that all of our stores that we can get up and running for the community are. And then we’ll work to see what community needs we may be able to assist with.”

  • ShopRite had 27 stores that remained closed at press time, but all its warehouses and distribution centers were fully operational and delivering products to stores “as quickly as possible to ensure our customers’ needs are met during this difficult time,” according to the company.

  • Target had reopened all of the stores affected by press time and also announced a donation of $500,000 in money and goods for storm-relief efforts, including $425,000 to the American Red Cross, $50,000 to the Salvation Army and $25,000 in gift cards.

  • Walmart had four stores that remained closed as of Nov. 2, but had pledged $1.5 million in relief efforts. The company said it was “working closely” with the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and Feeding America and also donating truckloads of water, food and other basic items and providing charging stations at Sam’s Club stores for members of the public without electricity to charge cell phones and other devices.

Many suppliers responded to the disaster as well — 

  • Duracell deployed its Power Forward Fleet, including the Rapid Responder, a truck that was making stops around the New York metropolitan area to provide power so that people could charge mobile devices and computers to communicate with loved ones, in addition to distributing more than one ton of batteries.

  • Drug maker Abbott and its philanthropic arm donated $1 million in funding and products to support storm-relief efforts.

  • Bayer donated $150,000 from the Bayer USA Foundation, to the American Red Cross and Save the Children — each will receive $75,000. Bayer has approximately 7,000 employees along the East Coast in the states most impacted by Hurricane Sandy, the company noted.

  • Anheuser-Busch sent 44,000 cases — 1,056,000 cans — of emergency drinking water to aid the relief effort in the New York and New Jersey areas. "Relief workers and people in the region are in need of safe, clean drinking water, and Anheuser-Busch is in a unique position to produce and ship large quantities of emergency drinking water," said Peter Kraemer, VP supply for Anheuser-Busch. "Our local distributors help identify those communities most in need and work with relief organizations, such as the American Red Cross, to make sure the water gets where it’s needed."
    In addition, the company also donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross.

Meanwhile, Rx Response, a collaborative partnership between drug makers, distributors and retail pharmacies, said it was working through the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association and liaising with government agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services. (For more on Rx Response efforts, click here.) Among other things, Rx Response activated its Pharmacy Status Reporting Tool, which provides information about pharmacies that are open in affected areas. The organization also said it received a request from FEMA for the NACDS and NCPA to see if any of their members could provide charging stations or mobile trucks that could go to identified areas to offer charging of durable medical equipment. “The object is to both facilitate communication about the supply chain and troubleshoot problems in the supply chain with managers,” a spokesman of the Rx Response member organization the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America told DSN

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Survey on health insurers advancing NP credentialing is major step for improving access, cost

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — The message is getting louder and gaining traction: Nurse practitioners are highly skilled health care professionals who need to be able to practice to the full scope of their ability, especially in light of the primary care shortage that is plaguing the nation.

(THE NEWS: Survey: Health insurers show advances in NP credentialing, reimbursement. Click here for the full story.)

Lawmakers and other officials are taking notice and according to survey findings, so are HMOs. As the survey found, 75% of HMOs credential nurse practitioners as primary care providers, an increase over previous years. While this is good news for the nursing industry, there’s no doubt that there is room for improvement.

As the survey stated, there needs to be 100% credentialing in order “for the healthcare system to be ready for the huge influx of new patients in 2014. … All nurse practitioners must be able to practice to, and be compensated for, the full scope of their ability.” This is a standard that needs to be expanded nationwide.

The reason why this is critical is quite clear. First of all, there’s healthcare reform that will put roughly 30 million uninsured Americans into the coverage rolls come 2014, and then there’s the physician shortage in this country. It is estimated that the primary care physician shortage will reach about 60,000 by 2015.

According to numbers provided by the Convenient Care Association, as few as 2% of medical students coming out of U.S. medical schools intending to pursue a career in general primary care. Also, between 30% and 60% of patients of convenient care clinics — which are typically staffed by nurse practitioners — reported not having a primary care physician. Plus, as many as 40% of convenient care clinic patients said they would have sought costlier care or would have foregone care completely if there had not been a convenient care clinic available.

Clearly, there’s a gap in care that needs to be filled.

Meanwhile, a recent Rand survey served as a stark reminder of how the other side can distort the issue with half-truths and oversights.

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Walgreens setting the stage to be an entirely different retailer; new magazine just a first step in that direction

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Omni-channel retailing is so yesterday. Omni-national retailing is the space where Walgreens is looking to play, and this magazine is just one of the first examples of how retailing concepts from the Old Country will be imported from across the Pond and translated for the U.S. market. 

(THE NEWS: Walgreens launches new biannual magazine showcasing private label, Balance Rewards deals. For the full story, click here.) 

The way Alliance Boots handles private label, the way the British retailer approaches seasonal and the way all of that gets brought together through a comprehensive loyalty program are just some of the best practices Walgreens executives identified early on in its partnership with Alliance Boots. For example, Alliance Boots takes a very different approach to seasonal. They’re mostly health- and beauty-focused whereas many stateside retailers are still very general-merchandise-focused. 

Walgreens’ new Happy and Healthy magazine appears to seize on each of those elements — private label, health and beauty and tying it together through the Balance Rewards loyalty program — suggesting the two companies are moving quickly to identify and apply relative synergies. To be sure, phase one is unfolding at a quick pace judging from other news announced earlier this week, namely that Walgreens and Alliance Boots have created a new jointly owned development company as part of their strategic partnership’s synergy program. 

Meanwhile, growing evidence of the globalization of the pharmacy business continues to unfold as Alliance Boots moved steadily along last week, with the transfer of ownership of Alliance Healthcare Russia from AB Acquisitions Holdings Limited, the parent company of Alliance Boots, to Alliance Boots. Alliance Healthcare Russia will be part of the package when Walgreens pulls the trigger on its second step in the acquisition process: a full merger of the two companies. 

And soon, Walgreens may be importing best practices from beyond even the U.K. border. Just last month, Alliance Boots acquired a stake in the Chinese wholesale market, further entrenching its position within that burgeoning economy. 

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