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WSJ: Walgreens’ Well Experience stores pass HHS review

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Walgreens’ new store format encouraging pharmacists to practice at the top of their license has passed muster with the Department of health and Human Services, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday

"The agency was unable to substantiate allegations from a consumer advocacy group that the new Walgreen ‘Well Experience’ store formats, as a whole, lacked the appropriate safeguards to prevent the disclosure of patient protected health information," WSJ reported. "The agency’s investigation included unannounced site visits at 30 ‘Well Experience’ stores, according to the letter, and while it did note there were individual staff errors at certain locations, there was no evidence of ‘widespread and systemic non-compliance as the errors varied from store to store.’ HHS did provide ‘substantial technical assistance’ to Walgreens, according to the letter."

That assistance amounted to suggestions that Walgreens augment its training program. 

The HHS investigation stemmed from a complaint filed last fall by Change to Win Retail Initiatives, a consumer advocacy group "that is a frequent critic of retail drug stores and is funded by labor unions," the WSJ reported. 

 

 

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Costco April sales up 7%

BY Michael Johnsen

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Costco Wholesale on Thursday reported net sales of $8.6 billion for the month of April, the four weeks ended May 4, representing an increase of 7%. This year’s four-week period included 27 days of sales compared to 28 last year, reflecting the timing of Easter. This calendar shift negatively impacted this year’s net and comparable sales by an estimated 150 to 200 basis points.

Comparable store sales in the U.S. market were up 5%. 

For the 35 weeks ended March 4, the company reported net sales of $73.2 billion, an increase of 6%. For the 35-week period, comparable sales were up 4% in the U.S. market. 

 

 

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Slight dip in April sales prompts new, aggressive marketing campaign at Fred’s Super Dollar

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fred’s Super Dollar on Thursday announced the company will implement a new long-term marketing strategy stressing everyday low pricing and the convenience of a smaller box to help bolster sales against what the company describes as "intense competitive pressures." The company’s pharmacy operations continue to grow, however.

Fred’s reported $150 million in sales for the four weeks ended May 3, representing a decline of 1.6% as compared to year-ago sales. For the first quarter ended May 3, sales totaled $498.5 million, down 0.6%. 

Comparable store sales for the month of April decreased 2.3% compared with a 1.2% increase in the same period last year. On a comparable store basis, year-to-date sales decreased 1.9% versus a 1.3% decrease for the year-earlier period.

"April’s sales reflect the limited success of our legacy marketing strategies in matching up with prevailing intense competitive pressures," stated Bruce Efird, Fred’s CEO. "Beginning in late January, we started working with our outside marketing teams and consultants to uncover new opportunities available to us and adjust our marketing strategies to regain our sales momentum. Working through extensive research and building a marketing strategy that can be sustained over the long term has taken several months to design, develop and validate" he said. "One of the key findings of our research has pointed out that the aggressive use of our new strategy today is likely to be quickly embraced, based on the demographics of our customer base. The team has put together a solid marketing plan to capitalize on Fred’s position as a low-price leader and brand our convenience departments’ advantages over small-box competitors."

Fred’s pharmacy department continued to demonstrate solid sales gains in April, with higher sales and comparable store script growth. "However, these improvements were not sufficient to offset the sales shortfall in the other general merchandise departments, which experienced negative comparable sales and traffic declines in April," Efird noted. "With this in mind, we now expect first quarter earnings per share to be in the range of $0.18 to $0.22. As we now begin to implement our new marketing strategy, we expect to see its impact beginning in June, when we anticipate a return to positive comparable store sales in the range of 1% to 3%."

During April, Fred’s opened three Xpress stores, closed two stores without pharmacies, and converted one Xpress into a full-service store.

 

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