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Stock repurchase program at CVS Caremark approved

BY Allison Cerra

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark has announced that its board of directors has approved a new share repurchase program for up to $2 billion of its outstanding common stock.

The share repurchase authorization expires at the end of 2011 and permits the company to effect the repurchases from time to time through a combination of open market repurchases, privately negotiated transactions, accelerated share repurchase transactions and/or other derivative transactions.

The company also stated that during second quarter 2010 it repurchased approximately 16.7 million shares of common stock for approximately $613 million, completing the $2 billion repurchase program authorized in November 2009.

Dave Denton, EVP and CFO of CVS Caremark, stated, “We’re very pleased with the board’s approval of this new share repurchase program and believe it reflects well-placed confidence in the future growth of CVS Caremark’s business and an ongoing commitment to increase shareholder value. We’re very focused on the efficient allocation of capital and we will continue to invest in internal projects that meet our return hurdles and use the rest of our remaining free cash flow to increase shareholder value.”

Denton continued, “Over the next five years, we expect to generate significantly more free cash flow than what we’ve generated in the past five years, and we expect to use the majority of that free cash flow in the near-term to enhance shareholder returns through dividends and share repurchases. We intend to continue to review our dividend annually and do share repurchases that are value enhancing.”

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Kroger kicks off Bringing Hope to the Table campaign

BY Allison Cerra

CINCINNATI Retail giant Kroger is inviting customers to help hungry people in their own communities by joining its two week-long campaign in its family of stores.

Kroger said its Bringing Hope to the Table campaign is expected to generate $4 million dollars in cash and food donations to assist 80 local food banks in communities where Kroger’s customers and associates live and work. Participating items will be marked with yellow shelf tags to indicate their pledge to support Bringing Hope to the Table.

“Through Bringing Hope to the Table, our customers, associates and vendors can drive funds to food banks that feed hungry people in their own communities,” said Lynn Marmer, Kroger’s group VP corporate affairs. “In 2009, Kroger stores partnered with customers and vendors to donate enough food to serve 40 million meals to feed hungry families in the communities we serve.”

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New survey finds affluent consumers drive economic recovery

BY Allison Cerra

BOSTON A new consumer study underscored the role affluent consumers play in driving the economy toward recovery.

Consulting firm L.E.K.’s consumer sentiment survey polled 2,000 U.S. households in April and found that more than one-third (39%) of affluent consumers — those households making more than $150,000 annually — believed their spending was either not impacted materially by the recession or already has returned to pre-recession spending levels, making them drivers in the economic recovery. The general population is significantly more cautious, with only 12% expecting their personal finances to improve by fall 2010, while 65% don’t anticipate that their finances will rebound significantly for the next 12 to 24 months.

According to the L.E.K. research, the affluent consumer is the only demographic that is spending more today than before the recession, and is the only group planning more purchases (expected 3.5% increase) in the near future. Furthermore, affluent consumers are more likely to purchase organic and natural food, “green” products and selectively splurge on higher-end brands, hence driving those retail categories to grow.

“L.E.K.’s survey findings show that wealthy consumer spending is outpacing the general public significantly and appears to be literally pulling the United States out of its recession,” said Andrew Rees, VP and head of the L.E.K. consulting retail practice. “The distinct affluent demographic underscores why retailers need to truly understand what motivates each customer type. Deep customer segmentation will give retailers the insight to chart a clear course despite hazy market conditions.”

Click here to learn more about L.E.K.’s CSS.

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