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Rite Aid’s skin care tour on road again

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Thousands of Rite Aid customers across the United States can get free, full-body skin cancer screenings this spring.

The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Road to Healthy Skin Tour will visit more than 60 Rite Aid stores in 19 states, sponsored by the retail pharmacy chain and Aveeno. The tour has screened more than 10,000 people since 2008, according to Rite Aid, catching 3,700 potential skin cancers and precancers, including about 200 suspected cases of the deadly skin cancer melanoma.

“We’re proud to have sponsored the Road to Healthy Skin Tour every year since its inaugural journey,” Rite Aid EVP pharmacy Robert Thompson stated. “These screenings have undoubtedly saved lives through early detection, and are a testament to the power of proactive health care.”

Local dermatologists will volunteer to lend their expertise to perform the screenings. A map of the tour is available at SkinCancer.org/tour.

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Wegmans puts spotlight on blood pressure

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Wegmans Food Markets on Tuesday introduced new resources for patients concerned about blood pressure and how to best manage their numbers at the Wegmans pharmacy counter. Wegmans also is hosting a blood pressure page on Wegmans.com, where patients can watch seven short videos on ways toward good readings.

Wegmans’ nutrition and pharmacy teams developed the blood-pressure Web pages, videos and brochure based on guidelines and research from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the grocer stated.

“Knowledge is power,” said Brian Pompo, coordinator of wellness and clinical services for pharmacy. “If we can prevent the progression toward high blood pressure by making it easier for people to see how to help themselves, and by providing easy and great-tasting meal ideas, that’s just the right thing to do.”

“A healthy lifestyle is the first critical step in preventing or treating elevated blood pressure,” added Wegmans nutritionist Jennifer Felice. “For those in the earliest stage, called prehypertension, it could be all that’s needed. For those with higher blood pressure already, a healthy lifestyle can mean better control with fewer medications.”

The brochure and corresponding videos on Wegmans.com cover blood pressure basics, guidance on salt, sodium and potassium, and how much lifestyle changes can impact blood pressure numbers.

“Elevated blood pressure is something people need to manage, because if it’s uncontrolled, it raises the risk of a life-ending event, such as a heart attack or stroke,” Felice said.

Click here to view Wegman’s Web page about blood pressure.

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Report: GNC may be looking to go public

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH — GNC is ready to pull the trigger on a long-anticipated initial public offering this Friday, according to several published reports.

It’ll be the third bite of the IPO apple for the Pittsburgh-based specialty chain. But if any time is a right time, that time is now, the company suggested in its prospectus, pointing to the graying of the baby boomer, coupled with increased pursuit of healthier lifestyles, which makes for a strong investment proposition for an already-established specialty channel retailer.

GNC originally filed for an IPO twice while owned by Apollo Management — in 2004 and again in 2006. GNC’s new owners, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, will be making the latest offering of 16 million public shares at an estimated price of between $15 and $17. That’s roughly half of the current share price of Vitamin Shoppe International, which traded at $34.16 as of late Wednesday morning.

The difference between then (2004 and 2006) and now, besides a change in ownership, is the fact that the smaller specialty operator Vitamin Shoppe — with some 500 locations versus GNC’s more than 3,800 U.S. corporate and franchised locales, excluding Rite Aid locations — has realized a 54.5% growth in share price from a year ago. Vitamin Shoppe opened its trading at $17.57 on Oct. 28, 2009.

In its most recent quarter, GNC posted same-store sales gains of 5.6% across its corporate stores and its website, and 2.9% comparable growth across franchised locations. Each of its corporate-owned-and-operated stores generated $438.2 million in annual sales, up from $422.4 million the year prior. For the 52 weeks ended Dec. 31, 2010, GNC recorded $1.8 billion in sales, up 6.7%. Revenue increased across the company’s retail and franchise segments by 7% and 11.2%, respectively, and declined in the manufacturing/wholesale segment by 1.2%. Adjusted EBITDA was $268.2 million for the year, representing a 16.3% increase over adjusted EBITDA in 2009.

GNC has entered into two significant strategic partnerships within the past year — one with PepsiCo and another with PetSmart. PepsiCo launched its Gatorade G Series Pro first in GNC stores, and plans a similar course for its fortified coconut water Phenom, expected to reach GNC shelves in the second quarter of 2011. More recently, GNC launched an exclusive line of GNC-branded pet supplements through PetSmart.

The company also is growing, projecting square-footage increases of between 3% and 4% in 2011, and suggesting that there are a total of 4,500 potentially viable locations that GNC can continue to grow into without violating its store-within-a-store deal with Rite Aid.

As of Dec. 31, 2010, GNC operated 2,917 GNC Centers and 2,003 GNC-within-a-Rite-Aid locations. In addition, GNC had 903 domestic franchisees and 1,437 franchisees operating outside of the United States.

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