Winn-Dixie renews ‘fresh & local’ appeal
If sports columnists covered Winn-Dixie, their story line would read something like this: The Jacksonville, Fla.-based retailer has climbed back into the ring as a slimmed-down and much-improved fighter competing in a lighter weight class.
The evidence is abundant that Winn-Dixie has regained its balance. In fiscal 2010 — a year hammered by recession and slack sales — the chain generated net earnings of $28.9 million, finished upgrading nearly half its store base, unveiled a dazzling new store prototype and poured $190 million into strategic improvements and the expansion of its “Fresh & Local” strategy.
Capping a long retrenchment, Winn-Dixie last year shed another 30 stores saddled with high lease costs and other problems. To restore profitability, it focused on “adjusting our promotional practices,” in the words of chairman, president and CEO Peter Lynch, and on the rebranding and expansion of its private brands, which now comprise nearly 4,000 products and account for 23% of “all the brands we sell in dollar terms,” according to the company.
Most significant, Winn-Dixie has remodeled roughly half its 484 supermarkets. Capping that renovation effort was the unveiling last year of a dramatically improved store prototype in Margate, Fla., and Covington, La., that highlights the company’s Fresh & Local market strategy.
Led by VP pharmacy John Fegan, a veteran of Ahold USA, the pharmacy division has certified all but a few of its 800 pharmacists to provide immunizations and some 400 of them to offer medication therapy management.
“With the availability of generics and the prices so low, it really comes down to the service … and [the] comfort the [customer] gets from walking in and talking with the pharmacist,” Fegan said.
Among recent innovations are a centralized prescription record system, called WD RxConnect, and an optional, automatic script-refill program.
Rx focus pulls Kinney through recession
While the economic downturn battered retailers across all channels, new pharmacy services and a new state-of-the-art pharmacy system has helped regional player Kinney Drugs weather the storm.
Kinney Drugs, which opened its first store in 1903 and today operates 90 locations, completed in 2010 the rollout of its new pharmacy system and, as a result, is now able to offer new services such as ReadyScripts. ReadyScripts is an automated refill program that is married with outbound messaging for patient reminders and free prescription delivery for those patients with little or no mobility.
Through a partnership with a central New York hospital, Kinney Drugs also is offering computer-assisted dispensing machines for the home setting and mobility chairs.
Kinney Drugs previously had been providing vaccinations only at its Vermont locations but, thanks to changes in New York state regulations, the retailer is now offering immunizations in its New York pharmacy locations as of mid-2010.
Looking ahead, the company indicated that it is planning to grow its store base by 2% to 4% each year, and also is interested in acquiring independent operators to establish a customer base in new markets.
Meijer disputes belief that nothing is free
The Midwest is known for flat landscapes and fertile farm fields stretching to the horizon, but it also is home to one of the country’s oldest and most successful mass merchandise chains — one with a long history of strong emphasis on pharmacy programs.
Where a growing number of chains have adopted generic discount programs, Meijer has taken to giving many drugs away for free. The list of medications that customers can obtain at no charge now includes metformin for Type 2 diabetes, prenatal vitamins and most antibiotics.
The chain also offers a variety of screenings for diabetes, cholesterol, liver function and blood pressure, as well as programs for combating obesity, such as body mass index and weight management information and education. Immunizations offered include seasonal flu, pneumococcal and shingles vaccines, all available on a walk-up basis.
The company, which currently has 195 stores, plans to open two more in the fall and has been expanding in Chicago with small-format stores of 90,000 sq. ft. that are focused on grocery and pharmacy.