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Walgreens confirms departure of Van Howe

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. In a major management shift within its talented merchandising team, Walgreens Thursday confirmed that David Van Howe, corporate VP new business development, would leave the company at the end of the calendar year “to pursue other opportunities.”

Van Howe’s pending departure from one of the nation’s top drug chains had been rumored for several days, but Walgreens remained mum about its plans since the beginning of the week. According to company spokesman Michael Polzin, Van Howe’s duties “will transition to several other individuals in the company.”

Van Howe was a key decision-maker in Walgreens’ evolving front-end strategy since he joined the company in 2000, first as a general merchandise manager in charge of several product categories in Walgreens purchasing department, including beauty/fashion, pharmacy and health and wellness. He was promoted to VP purchasing in 2007 and corporate VP purchasing in 2008.

As such, he played a major role in shaping the look and feel of the prototype Walgreens drug store in recent years, including its redesigned and upgraded cosmetics/fragrance departments, enlarged convenience foods sections and broadened assortment of health and wellness aids. More recently, he helped implement a new and sweeping set of initiatives aimed at tailoring the front-end mix toward specific, local customer needs, reducing item redundancies and clutter, and segmenting the product mix into four broad groupings to respond more effectively to Walgreens’ more than 3 million daily shoppers.

Many of those newer initiatives, however, came from more recent inductees into Walgreens’ merchandising management team, who brought with them a broader focus and specific expertise in reaching out to targeted customer groups. Among them: such marketing and product-sales gurus as Bryan Pugh, a veteran of Walmart Stores who was named VP merchandising; and Kim Feil, who joined Walgreens in 2008 after a career in the consumer packaged-goods and market research industries.

Their hiring, part of a sweeping transformation in Walgreens’ merchandise management ranks, signaled big changes in the company’s front-end strategy. In retrospect, they also set in motion a shift in decision-making power from Van Howe to Pugh, Feil and other rising stars at the company, including Chong Bang, who heads Walgreens’ massive Customer Centric Retailing initiative.

Nevertheless, Van Howe is credited with laying much of the needed groundwork for that transformation, and for helping to see it through. “We appreciate Dave’s professionalism and many contributions to recent initiatives, including Rewiring for Growth, Customer Centric Retailing and many other strategic programs throughout his career,” said John Spina, Walgreens’ vice president of retail integration. “We have valued Dave’s leadership, dedication and commitment to the company, and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

For his part, Van Howe praised his colleagues and the supplier community that has been critical to Walgreens’ success. “During my nine years with Walgreens, I have had the privilege to work with the best retail merchants, operators and vendor partners in the industry,” he said.

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Winn-Dixie to offer health insurance to Florida customers

BY Allison Cerra

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. A Florida-based grocer has partnered with the local Blue Cross Blue Shield to offer its customers health cards.

Winn-Dixie said Wednesday it will offer the program in all 353 of its Florida Winn-Dixie and Save-Rite locations. The program consists of two options: the $59 Gift of Health Care card and $19 FamilyBlue discount card.

The $59 Gift of Health Care card offers a convenient way to buy affordable health insurance. The $59 is applied accordingly to the plan the customer selects during the activation call. The $19 FamilyBlue discount card provides an entire family with discounts on dental, pharmacy and vision care for three months. The FamilyBlue card can pay for itself in just one visit to a provider.

“We are very excited about our partnership with BCBSF and about their Health Card program,” said Mary Kellmanson, Winn-Dixie group VP marketing. “The current economic downturn has left many people without access to healthcare benefits for themselves and their families. This program offers an affordable solution to that critical issue.”

Shoppers will find these cards on a permanent freestanding display unit located in the pharmacy area, and in the cold and flu aisle in stores that do not have a pharmacy. After customers have paid for their card, they can call a BCBSF 1-800 number located on the back of the card to activate it as well as receive their personalized member ID card to take to the doctor.

“Our goal is simple – to provide Floridians with easy access to the healthcare system,” said Craig Thomas, BCBSF VP and chief marketing officer. “This is a completely unique concept for the healthcare industry that allows us to reach a broader audience of uninsured and underinsured who would normally go to their local store to purchase pre-paid and gift cards. Winn-Dixie’s role as the first Florida grocer to carry these cards is a clearly demonstrates their commitment to the health and well being of the communities they serve.”

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Renewed lease spells renewed commitment for Accredo, Memphis community

BY Rob Eder

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Accredo Health has renewed the lease on its 240,000-sq.-ft. Century Center headquarters, the company announced last week. The 10-year leasing agreement for Accredo’s five-building campus is effective Jan. 1, 2010.

With staff expansions and the company’s work at home programs, Accredo’s total employment in the Memphis area now stands at approximately 1,750, and the space at Century Center, still leaves Accredo—Medco’s specialty pharmacy division—with plenty which was a factor in Accredo’s decision to renew, the company stated. Accredo occupies roughly 40% of the Century Center campus.

As part of the renewal, Accredo will create a new corporate headquarters and visitor center, as well as improve and expand employee amenities and parking in the campus. Accredo’s Proherant Health Inc. business unit, which provides patient education, clinical research and other services for biotech, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, will be shifted to Goodlett Farms Parkway in Cordova, Tenn. The standalone location was chosen to build and grow the Proherant Health business, according to Accredo.

“Accredo has been an important driver of Medco’s growth. We recognize and appreciate the talent and efforts of our employees in our Memphis headquarters who have contributed to Accredo’s extraordinary success. Our renewed commitment to the Memphis community reflects our belief that local talent and expertise will continue to fuel Accredo’s future growth,” said Steve Fitzpatrick, president, Accredo.

Fitzpatrick added that the new facility not only is an upgrade for its associates as well as the clients that visit the company, it also will enhance “Accredo’s ability to serve the needs of our patients.”

“We pride ourselves on the ‘high-touch’ quality of care for patients and our employees are at the heart of delivering that care, The pharmacy schools and universities in the Memphis area have helped train and develop the talent and leadership necessary for our company to grow to its current heights, Fitzpatrick said.

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