HEALTH

Sam’s Club gunning for FDM market

BY Mike Troy

Growing the health-and-wellness business remains a top priority for Sam’s Club as the warehouse club operator has identified those key categories as areas where it can demonstrate value, drive member loyalty and gain market share.


Sam’s has high expectations for health and wellness, along with food and consumables, as it looks to deliver on its brand promise of “savings made simple” and maintain the same-store sales momentum experienced throughout 2010 that culminated with a 2.7% gain in the fourth quarter.


That means placing an increased emphasis on the presentation of health-and-wellness 
categories in clubs while adding new services, such as hearing centers, conducting monthly health screenings and participating in exclusive distribution agreements with such well-known brands as GNC.


Looking at the company’s new and remodeled clubs, there is an unmistakable emphasis on health and wellness from the moment members set foot in the building. The pharmacy is highly visible thanks to colorful overhead signs, while leading brands in all the major drug store categories are merchandised on what typically are four 50-ft.-long shelving runs that lead to the pharmacy.


It’s a good look, and the business results are there, according to the company. So Sam’s remains committed to a multiyear process that emphasizes upgrading the existing club shopping experience rather than significantly expanding beyond an existing base of 609 clubs. Sam’s Club will spend about $1 billion this year to remodel 60 to 70 clubs while opening, expanding or relocating an additional seven to 12 units.


And as it places further emphasis on health and wellness, it is conceivable the company could see more meaningful contribution from those categories. Last year, the health-and-wellness categories — which Sam’s Club defines as pharmacy, optical services and over-the-counter drugs — accounted for 5% of sales, the same as the prior year.

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AAP pursues ‘road to true independence’

BY Jim Frederick

Its leaders and member-owners call it “the newest and best independent pharmacy cooperative in the nation.” It’s certainly one of the largest.


American Associated Pharmacies was created in September 2009, the result of the merger of United Drugs and Associated Pharmacies, or API. The combined co-op offers its members “additional buying leverage” and a “larger network of pharmacies for managed care contracting.” The overriding goal: to enhance members’ “profitability and survivability” by wielding the combined clout of its 2,000 affiliate drug stores.


Said AAP president and CEO Jon Copeland, “true independence today can be gained only with interdependence with a true cooperative that is owned by its members.”


Among the core services offered to those members, a spokesman said, are a massive warehouse and distribution center in Alabama — a legacy of API — along with a managed-care contracting program that delivers “analysis and negotiation of all contracts,” and “gross margin analysis and responsive third-party reimbursement issue resolution.”


In addition, said AAP spokesman Brett Doucette, there is a growing list of “back-office services.” Among them:


A billing reconciliation service called TrueScript Reconciler that helps with processing of centrally paid claims, along with a reporting system to monitor receivables and manage collections;


A sophisticated order-entry system called Scan & Toss that links stores with the API warehouse and AAP’s primary wholesaler, Cardinal Health, via use of a hand-held scanner that automatically searches for product availability and the lowest price before placing the order;


A service called ProfitMinder that tracks down billing errors and other inefficiencies that could be draining members’ profit dollars; and


An increasingly sophisticated planogram and shelf-slotting service that connects independents with rebate opportunities from OTC manufacturers.

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Council for Responsible Nutrition, Natural Products Association respond to British Medical Journal meta-analysis

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Two associations representing dietary supplement companies criticized a British Medical Journal meta-analysis published April 20 that concluded calcium and vitamin D supplementation may increase risk of heart attack and stroke.

“[The] findings were not what one would expect to find — that for the women not taking personal calcium supplements at the start of the trial, those allocated to combined calcium and vitamin D supplements were at an increased risk of cardiovascular events,” Council for Responsible Nutrition SVP scientific and international affairs John Hathcock said. “Conversely, the authors also wrote that for women who were taking personal calcium supplements at the start of the trial, combined calcium and vitamin D supplements did not alter cardiovascular risk. So in this case, it appears the more you take, the better off you may be,” he said. “It seems more likely that [the] findings are a procedural or statistical anomaly.”

The authors of the controversial meta-analysis elected not to disclose possible benefits of calcium supplementation, Hathcock added. “While the authors did include data for those who before the trial had ‘any personal use of calcium’ having a highly significant 16% decrease from death from all causes, they chose to ignore that point in their text, having identified it only in a table.”

“This latest analysis does not present compelling evidence against calcium and vitamin D, and in fact, there are many more studies touting the beneficial effects for both,” stated Cara Welch, VP scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association. “We hope that all individuals who use calcium supplements for bone health, and especially those under the direction of a physician, will continue their supplementation and not be swayed by this flawed analysis.”

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