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Walgreens continues to raise beauty bar

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then there are plenty of folks beholding Walgreens and its New York palette, Duane Reade. So it should come as no surprise that Walgreens is positioning its heavy hitters against the beauty category, given the number of recent changes Walgreens has made across its beauty facing.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens makes changes to beauty, personal care merchant teams. For the full story, click here.)

What it should tell you, though, is that Walgreens is going to continue to raise the beauty bar in U.S. drug store retailing. If you’ve ever visited a Duane Reade in the capital of beauty — New York City still serves as the fashion runway in this country — then you know how eye-catching that DR beauty set has become.

That upscale staffed beauty department services all aspects of beauty, including brows with a Ramy-branded brow bar that offers in-store eyebrow-shaping services. The Look Boutique also offers shoppers an inviting fragrance area featuring a handful of the most popular fragrances tethered to an upscale-looking counter.

And Walgreens is beginning to expand that Look Boutique experience nationwide, attracting shoppers in search of premium beauty solutions in the process. Leveraged against that merchandising position are Walgreens’ 26,000-plus beauty advisers and the expertise that will soon come from its online beauty engine, Beauty.com, with its recent acquisition of Drugstore.com.

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Fred’s net income increases 16%

BY Allison Cerra

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fred’s net income increased 16% to $9.5 million, or 24 cents per diluted share, compared with net income of $8.2 million, or 21 cents per diluted share in the year-earlier period.

The retailer said that total sales rose 3% to $484.4 million from $471.6 million for the same period last year. For comps, Fred’s reported a 1% rise on top of a 2.2% increase for the first quarter last year.

Fred’s gross profit for first quarter 2011 increased 1% to $137.9 million from $136.9 million in the prior-year period.

During the first quarter, Fred’s opened one new store and four pharmacy express locations and closed seven underperforming stores and one pharmacy express location as part of its 2011 operating plan. Additionally, one franchise also was closed during the quarter. The company also remodeled and refreshed 56 stores with its new Core 5 elements in the quarter, bringing the total stores upgraded to 264 during 2010 and 2011.

Looking ahead, Fred’s expects its earnings per share to increase between 8% and 23% for the second quarter to a range of 14 cents to 16 cents.

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Giant Food donates funds to schools through A+ School Rewards program

BY Alaric DeArment

LANDOVER, Md. — Giant Food is donating nearly $2 million to schools in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia as part of its 2010-2011 A+ School Rewards program, the Royal Ahold banner said Wednesday.

The program, which has operated for 22 years, allows customers to support school programs every time they use their Giant card at a Giant Food store.

“Since 1989, Giant has awarded more than $83 million to schools across the Mid-Atlantic region through A+,” Giant-Landover public and community relations manager Jamie Miller said. “We’re very proud to support more than 2,200 local schools and give back to the communities we’re so privileged to serve.”

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