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Bartell Drugs, Food Lifeline team up to fight hunger

BY Antoinette Alexander

SEATTLE — Regional pharmacy chain Bartell Drugs has announced that it is continuing its tradition of helping to fight hunger in the Puget Sound area with its “Bartell’s Community Food Drive,” a community partnership with Food Lifeline.
 
Now through June 27, Bartell Drugs locations throughout King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are accepting non-perishable food items to replenish local food banks in the summer months when families that normally depend on free or reduced-price school meals may struggle to provide healthy meals at home.
 
Suggested items to purchase for in-store donations include tuna, instant oatmeal, cereals, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, jam, cheese crackers, applesauce and canned fruit. 
 
Last year’s food drive generated more than 5,400 pounds of food donations — the rough equivalent of 4,520 meals.  According to the company, its food drives over the past five years have totaled more than 138,400 pounds of food donations. 
 
“For many families, dealing with food hardship is an ongoing challenge, and the need becomes more acute during the summer months when children are at home and school programs are not available,” Bartell Drugs chairman George Bartell said. “With the support of our customers, we hope to fill a very important need in the communities we serve.”
 
 

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What’s driving Kroger’s 46th straight quarter of positive comps?

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI — Kroger has posted its 46th consecutive quarter of positive same-store sales results, excluding fuel, with a 5.7% increase.  
 
“Our results show the power of our Customer 1st Strategy,” Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO, said. “Our associates are making a difference for our customers by providing excellent service and product quality and selection, and we continue to improve the shopping experience by bringing technology and digital capabilities to our business. Our integration with Vitacost.com is going very well; we are inviting customers in Cincinnati to try ClickList, our order online, pickup at the store solution we are learning from Harris Teeter; and more customers than ever before are engaging with our digital tools.”
 
Kroger generated $33.1 billion in first quarter revenue, representing a slight increase of 0.3%. However, total sales, excluding fuel, increased 6.4% in the first quarter over the same period last year.
 
“Kroger has produced consistently remarkable results for so long that it might be easy for some to take a quarter like this for granted, so it is important to emphasize it is the efforts of our incredible team of associates, connecting with customers, that is driving our success,” McMullen said. “Time and again, we have shown that by taking care of our customers, Kroger is creating sustainable value for our shareholders.”
 
Kroger confirmed its net earnings guidance range of $3.80 to $3.90 per diluted share for fiscal 2015, but raised its identical supermarket sales growth guidance, excluding fuel, to a range of 3.5% to 4.5% for fiscal 2015. The original guidance was 3% to 4%.
 
The company continues to expect capital investments excluding mergers, acquisitions and purchases of leased facilities, to be in the $3 billion to $3.3 billion range for the year.
 
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Rite Aid sees lift in Q1, expects fiscal 2016 to be banner year

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid is expecting its EnvisionRx acquisition to increase the company's annual revenues by as much as 18.6%, from $26.3 billion in fiscal 2015 to a projected range of $30.7 billion and $31.2 billion, the company reported Thursday morning. 
 
Rite Aid expects to close its EnvisionRx deal by the end of July. That will bring the company a lot closer to its ultimate goal of evolving into a comprehensive retail healthcare company, with in-store services ranging from disease-state management and acute care coupled with the ability to manage better outcomes for payer partners on a broad scale. 
 
"EnvisionRX is a hypergrowth benefit manager that has seemingly come from nowhere to reach $5 billion in annual revenue on coverage of 13 million individual accounts," wrote Brian Nichols, Seeking Alpha analyst, in a blog post earlier this week. "While far smaller than CVS's Caremark or Express Scripts, having 13 million accounts still gives Rite Aid negotiating power with drug developers and the potential to gain new customers from EnvisionRX's account base among other benefits," he noted. "[As much as] 40% of CVS's scripts derive from Caremark," Nichols added. 
 
For fiscal 2016, Rite Aid expects drug store sales to reach between $26.9 billion and $27.4 billion and same-store sales to range from an increase of 2.5% to an increase of 4.5% over fiscal 2015. Adjusted EBITDA guidance is expected to be between $1.35 billion and $1.45 billion and net income is expected to be between $150 million and $230 million or income per diluted share of $0.14 to $0.22. 
 
"Our first-quarter results reflect the continued progress we're making in positioning Rite Aid for growth, including increases in same-store sales, same-store prescription count and Adjusted EBITDA," stated John Standley, Rite Aid chairman and CEO. "We generated these positive results while also making significant strategic investments to continue our transformation into a retail healthcare company," he said. "Through initiatives like adding RediClinics to Rite Aid stores, launching the groundbreaking wellness+ with Plenti program and our pending acquisition of EnvisionRx, we remain highly focused on delivering a differentiated experience to our customers and a higher level of care to the communities we serve."
 
Same-store sales were a primary driver behind the company's 2.8% lift in first quarter revenues to $6.6 billion, the company reported. Net income totaled $18.8 million, or $0.02 per diluted share, for the fiscal 2016 first quarter ended May 30 and adjusted EBITDA was $299.3 million, or 4.5% of revenues.
 
Same-store sales for the quarter increased 2.9% over the prior year, consisting of a 0.6% increase in front-end sales and a 3.9% increase in pharmacy sales. Pharmacy sales included an approximate 165 basis point negative impact from new generic introductions. The number of prescriptions filled in same stores increased 1.6% over the prior year period. Prescription sales accounted for 69.1% of total drug store sales, and third-party prescription revenue was 97.7% of pharmacy sales.
 
Capital expenditures are expected to be approximately $665 million.
 
In the first quarter, the company relocated two stores, remodeled 108 stores and expanded one store, bringing the total number of wellness stores chainwide to 1,741. The company also closed four stores, resulting in a total store count of 4,566 at the end of the first quarter.
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