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Walgreens to help seniors navigate Medicare

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — With this year’s Medicare Annual Election Period overlapping with the unrelated open enrollment for the new federal and state insurance marketplaces, there’s a growing need to help Medicare beneficiaries understand their healthcare coverage options when Medicare open enrollment begins on Oct. 15, Walgreens noted Monday. 

“Many Medicare beneficiaries don’t fully understand certain aspects of their health plan, including cost savings options, and some also become non-adherent to medication therapies as a way to try to reduce costs,” stated Suzanne Hansen, Walgreens group VP pharmacy operations. “The Medicare environment can be challenging to navigate, and we anticipate an even greater need to help educate our customers this year, given the changes that are taking place across the health care landscape.”

Cost savings remains top of mind for many Medicare beneficiaries, as more than one-third of those surveyed (37%) are concerned about prescription drug costs, and 1-in-5 say they’ve made such sacrifices as delaying filling a prescription or skipping doses to help manage medication costs.

Walgreens’ pharmacists will serve as an accessible resource for Medicare Part D information, offering free, personalized plan comparison reports to help beneficiaries evaluate the plans that may best meet their prescription drug needs.

Walgreens’ prescription plan comparison report details each plan’s estimated annual costs, including monthly premiums, brand and generic co-pays and drugs covered through the coverage gap. Walgreens’ pharmacists will review the report to help Medicare beneficiaries understand their coverage options, as well as the latest information on Medicare, whether they’re selecting a plan for the first time or evaluating if their current plan is still the best option. 

Plan reviews will be available on a walk-in basis or by scheduling an appointment at www.walgreens.com/medicare.

Walgreens is a part of Medicare preferred pharmacy networks with four national Part D plan sponsors — Coventry Health Care, Humana, UnitedHealthcare and WellCare. The preferred networks are designed to offer Medicare beneficiaries additional options to save on their prescription drugs.

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Ahold share buyback program reaches milestone

BY Alaric DeArment

ZAANDAM, Netherlands — Dutch supermarket operator Royal Ahold has bought back more than a quarter of the shares it intends to as part of a share-repurchase program announced earlier this year.

The company said Monday that it had bought back 2.23 million for $38.8 million. The purchases are part of the $678 million buyback program announced in February and increased by $2.03 billion in June.

The total amount repurchased so far is 42.8 million shares, for a total price of $711.9 million.

Ahold’s U.S. subsidiary is Ahold USA, which owns the Stop & Shop, Giant Food of Landover, Md., and Giant Food Stores of Carlisle, Pa., supermarket banners and the Peapod online grocery service.

 

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Dollar store value proposition increasing in scope and relevance

BY Michael Johnsen

It’s been the week of the dollar store. Dollar General opened store No. 11,000 last week, and Family Dollar continues to reinvent its brand relevance with the consumer as the company posted monster gains for its fiscal fourth quarter and the year, driven by store experimentation, remodels and the introduction 1,000 SKUs, including many health and beauty items. 

With that kind of store front and store brand ubiquity, respectively, the value proposition inherent in this channel has to be appealing to more than those either on government assistance or recently furloughed by the government. 

Because that makes Dollar General the largest CPG retailer in the country, followed by Walgreens. And with Family Dollar elevating the quality perception across its store brand — total sales for private labels increased by about 10% and by 20% for private label consumables — the company has plans in place to introduce about 200 private-label SKUs in fiscal year 2014.

Truth is, dollar stores are shopped by household incomes of all shapes and sizes. So it only makes sense to offer more — more stores and more products. 

According to a recent research report published by Mintel, half of all dollar channel enthusiasts bank more than $150,000 per household. 

It’s a confluence of factors that’s driving that business — the sluggish economy makes the dollar channel value proposition all the more relevant to today’s consumer. And the proliferation of both mainstream brands and higher-quality private label offerings has helped transform what had been a treasure-hunt trip into the dollar store as a destination visit. 

According to Mintel, three-in-four shoppers think that dollar stores are the best deal going, and more than half of consumers have reported the dollar channel shopping experience and price position rival those of retailers outside of the dollar channel. 

And while Family Dollar is augmenting its private label position (what retailer isn’t these days?), the dollar operator is still pursuing strategic partnerships with mainstream brands

“Retailers are starting to demand customization,” Jocelyn Wong, Family Dollar chief marketing officer, explained to attendees of the 2013 Shopper Marketing Expo. “Retailers are no longer just place[s] where you go to buy things. [They] have become powerhouse brands, and as they start to think of themselves more as brands, there’s a need for greater collaboration [with suppliers],” she said. 

 

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