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Rite Aid launches nationwide health-and-wellness effort

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid is launching a six-month, nationwide health-and-wellness campaign to mark its 50 years of operation, the retail pharmacy chain said Wednesday.

RA50, as the new campaign is called, began Wednesday near the company’s headquarters in Camp Hill, Pa., and will move on to the Pennsylvania state capital of Harrisburg Thursday through Saturday. Afterward, it will move on to Baltimore; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Scranton, Pa.; Cleveland; Detroit; Portland, Ore.; Los Angeles; Atlanta; Norfolk, Va.; and New York.

"Rite Aid’s motto is ‘With us, it’s personal,’ and for 50 years, our associates have proudly delivered on this promise by meeting the health and wellness needs of our customers and communities," Rite Aid chairman, president and CEO John Standley said. "RA50 embodies our core values and is the perfect way for Rite Aid to thank the many communities across the nation that have helped us grow and to continue our mission of helping those we serve live healthier, happier lives."

The "acts of wellness" will include free screenings, wellness fairs, public education events and what the company called efforts to spread wellness-related messaging in "novel" ways. Events will address community needs, such as diabetes, heart disease, childhood obesity and cold and flu prevention. Participating organizations include Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Boys Hope Girls Hope, Boys & Girls Clubs and Marathon Kids, United Way chapters and local school districts, senior centers and other private and public organizations.

In Harrisburg, on Thursday, the company plans to provide restocking packages to nurses at the city’s 11 public schools. The packages contain personal-care items and healthy snacks that nurses provide to students in need.

Rite Aid’s history began with the opening of the first store in Scranton in 1962, a 1,400-sq.-ft. store then called the Thrif D Discount Center. Rite Aid’s first pharmacy opened in 1966, and the company was named Rite Aid Corp. in 1968. Since then, it has grown to more than 4,600 stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia, employing more than 90,000 people, according to the company.


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CRN debunks omega-3 meta-analysis as ‘inherently inconclusive’

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — As part of a meta-analysis spanning 70,000 patients, a study published in the Sept. 12 issue of JAMA determined supplementation with omega-3 fish oils was not associated with a lower risk in heart disease. Lead researcher Evangelos Rizos of the University Hospital of Ioannina in Greece, concluded that omega-3 supplement recommendations may be overblown. "Our findings do not justify the use of omega-3 as a structured intervention in everyday clinical practice or guidelines supporting dietary omega-3 … administration," he wrote.

However, given the many shortcomings around meta-analyses of a nutritional supplement’s impact on disease states, "consumers should not discount the many proven benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in all stages of life," countered Duffy MacKay, VP scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

"This study does not change the current recommendations by authoritative bodies, such as the World Health Organization, American Heart Association and the U.S. National Academies of Science, who recommend adequate consumption of omega-3 fats," MacKay said.

The value in meta-analyses is found in combining comparable smaller clinical studies to assess whether similarities in the combined results exist. The problem is in finding studies that are actually comparable. "This meta-analysis combined studies that were not comparable in their design … which makes the results more skewed," MacKay noted. "Second, omega-3 fatty acids are vital nutrients and not drugs. Many of the studies included in the meta-analysis were conducted on diseased individuals already undergoing treatment with one or more drugs, such as statins, which may mask the less potent and more long-term effects of omega-3 fats."

Along these lines, the researchers apparently did not examine within each individual study included in the meta-analysis whether individuals in the placebo group were sufficient or insufficient in their dietary intake omega-3 fats, MacKay suggested. "In this regard, studies on drugs are far simpler than those of nutrients [where] the treatment group gets the drug and the placebo group does not," he said. "With nutrients, if participants in the control group already have a diet sufficient in that substance, then it will be that much harder to demonstrate any benefit among the treatment participants. It is impossible for five researchers to control the diet of almost 70,000 patients over several years (particularly as a retrospective meta-analysis), as omega-3 fats are widespread throughout a variety of foods."


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ShopperTrak: Holiday sales, foot traffic to realize gains

BY Allison Cerra

CHICAGO — As holiday sales and foot traffic historically account for about 20% of annual retail activity, a new report by ShopperTrak revealed that consumers will shop more and visit more stores during the peak holiday shopping months of November and December.

"Retailers have reason to be optimistic about this season. It’s clear that foot traffic is increasing and month-over-month sales continue to be better than expected," ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said. "In fact, our shopper visit data tell us that consumers are visiting more stores than last year. This influx of traffic will present opportunities for retailers to convert these visitors into buyers, especially with the extended holiday shopping season."

ShopperTrak said it is projecting that national retail sales will rise 3.3% above last year during the period, while retail foot traffic will increase 2.8%. ShopperTrak said that these increases will be driven by a number of factors, including a long interval between Black Friday and Christmas Day (a 32-day period). ShopperTrak also noted that weekends typically are busy shopping periods, and this year’s holiday calendar provides two extra ones: a full weekend in the holiday shopping season, plus a weekend between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, as those holidays fall mid-week. What’s more, Hanukkah falls 11 days earlier than last year. This presents retailers with a chance for a sales boost early in the season.

"The calendar provides retailers unusual opportunities for success this season, but store managers will need to understand how the 2012 calendar differentiates this holiday season from past seasons," Martin said "Keeping stores open for longer hours across an extended time between holidays adds to operating costs. Managers need to plan optimal staffing, scheduling, marketing and advertising with the calendar to achieve best results."

Another interesting factor retailers should take note of? Political elections. ShopperTrak’s analysis revealed that shopping activity tapers off before national elections — ShopperTrak recorded a decline of 6.3% the week before voting in 2008 — but rebounds quickly after the results are announced. Consumers who were distracted during the election, however, generally dive into the holiday shopping season after the ballots are counted. Store managers must have their marketing and advertising ready to go on Nov. 7 to capture the full sales potential of this holiday season.

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