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Shirtliff gets it ‘Rite’ in a customer’s world

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. —Since its debut in 2004, Rite Aid’s Customer World prototype has represented the promise inherent in the No. 3 drug store operator. The new store layout reflects the best thinking in terms of what resonates with today’s shopper: softer, cleaner color palettes that today’s mom found more appealing, for example, and lower sightlines across the store to facilitate an easier shopping experience.

In the new prototype, no longer was the pharmacy hidden behind a stack of beauty and over-the-counter gondolas and a dogleg left from the front entrance. The new Rite Aid stores positioned the pharmacy directly opposite that front entrance and, combined with the lower sightlines, afforded today’s Rite Aid customer the convenience of spotting the category they came for within a few steps of walking into the store.

And perhaps the greatest differentiator setting Rite Aid’s merchants apart from many of their retail pharmacy peers was the freeing of the beauty department from its anchor alongside one wall, and placing that beauty department smack center in the store so that, no matter what mom was looking for on any given day, she was likely to at least walk by one beauty endcap featuring Rite Aid’s latest promotion.

That vision was first realized under the watch of Jim Mastrian, then senior EVP marketing, logistics and pharmacy services at Rite Aid, who incorporated many of the Customer World elements into the acquired Brooks/Eckerd stores as Rite Aid converted those banners. Assuming the direction of that vision since Mastrian’s retirement in 2008 was Mastrian protégé Bryan Shirtliff, who just last month was promoted to Rite Aid SVP business development from his role as SVP category management.

And under Shirtliff’s watch, the Customer World merchandising concept has continued to evolve. “We’ve gone through some fairly radical product adjacency/space allocation modifications as we’ve evolved with the Customer World,” Shirtliff told Drug Store News. As an example, Shirtliff noted that there were new beauty categories incorporated into today’s vision that were not part of the initial Customer World launch. “We’ve certainly downsized some space allocations and expanded others that are more core to our business.”

Many of those changes are driven by the ever-changing shopper dynamic, which today is heavily influenced by a down economy, Shirtliff said. “We’ve certainly merchandised more across value, both off-shelf and in-line, but you can’t forget the class of trade we [represent]; we’re still a drug store, and health and beauty is still what we do,” he added. For example, one of the core merchandising elements underscoring the chain’s commitment to health and wellness is Rite Aid’s health platforms, in which it raises awareness around diabetes, allergy awareness, skin care, oral health, heart health and weight management throughout the year through education created in partnership with many of the leading associations representing those specific conditions.

Just last month, Rite Aid re-upped its commitment to heart health through a partnership with the American Heart Association. “Those programs have also [evolved] from when they’ve started,” Shirtliff said. For example, there’s a greater degree of correlation across Rite Aid’s many media platforms, such as in-store, weekly circulars and online.

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Virginia lawmakers move to block plan for mandated health coverage

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON In an act of defiance against the Obama administration’s plan for healthcare reform, the Virginia legislature this week moved to block a provision in that plan that would mandate that Americans obtain health insurance.

Health reform opponents on Thursday applauded the move, which came Tuesday when the Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill that would make it illegal to require individuals to purchase health insurance. The measure already passed the state Senate and is headed to the desk of Governor Bob McDonnell, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

 

That will make Virginia “the first state to protect its citizens from a federal government mandate to obtain health insurance,” according to a conservative advocacy group called Americans for Prosperity, which has bitterly opposed efforts by Democrats to reform the U.S. health system. The group also claims that a total of 37 states are considering some form of “health care freedom act.”

The White House, for its part, has long proposed some form of mandated coverage for all Americans as a means of holding down insurance costs and ensuring that healthier Americans are also included in insurance pools. Under the Obama administration’s proposal, however, much of the cost of individual coverage could be defrayed or offset by tax cuts or other financial help for individuals who can’t afford the costs of coverage.

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Home health specialist Carex launches online membership program for patients

BY Alaric DeArment

OAKLAND, Calif. A company that makes in-home health products has launched a section on its Web site for elderly people and their caregivers.

Carex Health Brands announced Thursday the launch of Carex Care Connection, at carex.com. The site allows users to share stories and find discounts and giveaways on Carex products, which include products for mobility, bathroom safety, personal care and daily living aids, pain management and others.

“Our team at Carex Health Brands genuinely cares about the welfare of seniors,” Carex VP marketing Nathalie Kim said in a statement. “In addition to our efforts to create the most innovative and quality products in the in-home health category, we want to connect directly with caregivers and the senior community.”

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