Thrifty White upgrades remote pharmacy
A new partnership with Gold Standard/Elsevier has solidified Thrifty White Pharmacy’s efforts to bring big-city services to its small-town customer base, which is spread across five states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Iowa and Montana.
The Maple Grove, Minn.-based chain of 84 stores recently licensed Alchemy, a new drug database and decision support solution, for all of its pharmacy and telepharmacy dispensing systems. The new partnership will enable the chain to streamline its prescription filling process and provide drug information to pharmacists instantly.
“Thrifty White is committed to providing health care to populations where access to pharmacy services is limited. We believe that the pharmacist is a great resource, especially to patients in rural communities,” said Gary Boehler, EVP pharmacy for Thrifty White.
The move comes as the chain faces increased pressure from big-box stores that have been moving into its territory. After about five decades, the chain closed its store in Hastings, Minn., and sold it to Walgreens, which had opened a store just a block away. Walgreens also bought another of its stores in Mound, Minn.
Closing stores is not a usual practice for the chain, which opened four stores, including moving into a vacant Wolff Drug location in Pierz, Minn., over the past six months.
In addition to its core employee-owned stores, the company also serves a growing cadre of independent retailers, currently numbering 63 stores, including 12 Dahl’s and six Witt Pharmacies.
Looking to differentiate itself from the competition, the chain has successfully partnered with the College of Pharmacy at North Dakota State University and its pharmacy students. The pair opened the Thrifty White Concept Pharmacy, which emphasizes a retail community pharmacy practice.
Another area that the small regional has been on the leading edge in is the infusion business it operates out of a central location.
Pharmacy, makeover lifts Fred’s sales
Fred’s last year migrated its more than 300 pharmacies to a more convenient front-of-store position in an effort to boost pharmacy revenue — and it worked. Fred’s 2010 pharmacy sales growth of 4.8% outpaced the discounter’s overall sales growth of 3% for the year. At the time Fred’s began executing against the pharmacy makeover, the company reported that test stores featuring front-of-store pharmacies enjoyed 20% higher sales per square foot as compared with the company’s average.
Fred’s opened 21 new pharmacies throughout fiscal 2010 and plans additional pharmacy location growth of between 10 and 15 in 2011. “Pharmacy expansion not only enhances margins; it also serves as a proven driver of customer trips and loyalty,” Bruce Efird, Fred’s CEO, told analysts in March.
Fred’s pharmacy department also was successful in administering 7% more immunizations to patients in 2010 — that’s a build on top of the 17% increase in immunizations Fred’s realized in 2010 vs. 2009 because of H1N1.
Fred’s also will continue to emphasize the better merchandising mixes to come out of its Core 5 program, which is designed to highlight five strong trip-driving departments where Fred’s feels it has a marketable advantage over other small-box competitors — notably pharmacy, celebration and party, pet products, paper and chemical, and home products. By the end of 2010, Fred’s had roughly 30% of its store base in the Core 5 layout, which features improved merchandising, signage and adjacencies.
And while Fred’s projects flat comparable pharmacy sales across 2011 because of the number of branded pharmaceuticals losing patent protection and pharmacy reimbursement pressures on the average manufacturing price at the state level, Efird tabbed pharmacy as a key growth driver for Fred’s. “On average, stores with pharmacies have higher front-end traffic, consistently performing at 10% or better than stores without pharmacies,” he said.
Kerr expands health focus beyond stores
Kerr Drug describes its free prescription delivery service — launched in fall 2010 and renewed to positive customer response for 2011 — as “old school innovation.” If “old school” means anticipating consumers’ health and everyday-product needs, and meeting them with a down-home approach to store service and a broader-than-usual menu of pharmacy care options, then the tag could apply to Kerr’s entire business strategy.
The chain has pruned its retail network to a core group of 76 high-yield drug stores and a number of clinical pharmacies, all in North Carolina, as well as a combination specialty pharmacy and mail-order center in its home market of Raleigh. “We have fewer properties now, but all of them are excellent,” asserted Diane Eliezer, Kerr’s director of marketing.
After developing a groundbreaking array of retail health services offered through a variety of drug store formats, Kerr remains one of chain pharmacy’s most innovative retail health providers. With the launch last year of Kerr Health, a separate division devoted to providing clinical pharmacy and wellness services directly to employers, long-term care facilities and other entities, the company has broadened its health focus well beyond the drug store setting.
Ten Kerr stores still feature “an expanded clinical presence” ranging from “a clinical office that does screenings” to “a full Community Care Center,” Eliezer told Drug Store News. These days, however, the chain’s highly regarded clinical pharmacy team is “out of the store as much or more than they’re in,” she said, as they provide immunizations, health screenings and other services to business and community organizations through Kerr Health.
“Originally, we thought there would be much more of a retail application with that, but it turns out that has not grown as quickly as we’d hoped. But there’s a great deal of business … out of the store, as well as [medication therapy management] and immunizations in the store,” Eliezer explained.
Meanwhile, the chain maintains its pioneering approach to community-based health care. Kerr was the first drug chain, for instance, to launch ActiveCare’s ActiveOne PAL, or personal assistance link, a rapid-response system that links seniors via a one-touch cell phone link to emergency health providers.