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Anticipating customer needs makes USA a force in Goliath’s backyard

BY Jim Frederick

PINE BLUFF, Ark. — USA Drug grew up in Arkansas, home turf of Walmart. But to characterize the 140-unit drug store operator as David to Walmart’s Goliath doesn’t do justice to this feisty retail innovator, which wields plenty of clout across the nation’s midsection, under a variety of store banners.


USA Drug left the Memphis, Tenn., market in March 2010, selling 14 Super D and three Ike’s stores to Walgreens. But the company also achieved record profits in 2010, according to USA Drug president and CEO Joe Courtright. It also bought 16 independent pharmacies and built four new 15,000-sq.-ft. prototype stores, he said. 


USA Drug begins the new year as a formidable regional player with a legendary ability to anticipate its customers’ needs. Its top merchant, VP purchasing Carl Wheeler, is in charge of a broadly merchandised front end that Courtright projects will achieve comp-store sales gains of 4% to 5% in 2011, after a “flat” same-store sales year in 2010.


“Our Dollar Zone category is performing very well,” he told Drug Store News. Also making big gains, Courtright added, are paper products, snacks, beverages and grocery, in addition to antacids, which “are up sharply as a result of Rx to [over-the-counter] conversion.”


The pharmacy also is regaining ground, with “optimal” pharmacist staffing and “several [disease management] programs, including those targeting diabetes, cholesterol, osteoporosis, asthma management, blood pressure and cardiovascular risk management, liver function testing and smoking cessation,” the company’s CEO said.

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Merriwether to lead retail services for Sears, Kmart

BY Allison Cerra

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Sears Holdings’ SVP procurement and finance has been promoted.

Deidra Cheeks Merriwether now holds the title of SVP and president of retail services, succeeding James Haworth. In this role, Merriwether, who joined the corporation in 2001, will be responsible for the oversight and leadership of retail services for the broadline retailer’s Kmart and Sears stores.

Merriwether currently serves as a member of Sears Canada’s board of directors and is the executive sponsor of the company’s African-American Associate Network.

"Deidra is an accomplished leader," said Bruce Johnson, interim CEO and president of Sears Holdings. "She has a keen understanding of the retail business. Her past experiences within the company, along with a demonstrated success in creating and inspiring high-performance teams that are focused on satisfying the customer make her a perfect fit for this role."

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Gaiam releases new collections of Travel Channel shows on DVD

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — Gaiam’s home video license agreement with the Travel Channel is being extended with the DVD release of "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern" Collection 4, Part 2 and "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" Collection 5, Part 2.

"Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern" Collection 4, Part 2 follows the adventures of Zimmern, a man with an "iron stomach," as he tackles the most bizarre delicacies. The three-disc DVD set includes 13 episodes and carries a suggested retail price of $24.98, with a total runtime of 563 minutes.

In "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" Collection 5, Part 2, Bourdain travels around New York and worldwide to explore the delights of street food. The three-disc DVD set includes 11 episodes and bonus features, and carries a suggested retail price of $24.98, with a total runtime of 485 minutes.

The new releases will be available wherever DVDs are sold.

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