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Chains sharpen prices for dulled BTS shopping

BY DSN STAFF

It’s no surprise that in the current economy, the back-to-school selling season looked bleak. Going into the heart of the season, consumers planned to spend less and to spread purchases over time rather than buying in a rush in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year.

The National Retail Federation’s 2009 Back to School Consumer Intensions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, projected that the average consumer would spend $98.44 on such school supplies as notebooks, folders and backpacks. The survey revealed that 4-out-of-5 Americans have made changes in back-to-school plans this year as a result of the economy. Nearly half planned to spend less overall, 56% planned to do more comparative shopping with ad circulars and newspapers, 42% planned to buy more store-brand or generic products and 40% planned to use coupons.

Manufacturers have been aggressive with coupons and other promotions in an effort to keep consumers interested in branded products. “Coupon redemption rates are expected to increase in this economic environment,” Joseph Franzino, brand manager of stationery for BIC Consumer Products USA, told Drug Store News in an interview this summer. “BIC has foreseen this trend and is supporting the business with online coupons, as well as a national FSI that will reach 40 million households on Aug. 9.”

NRF’s survey predicted that drug stores were likely to see a spike in the number of consumers shopping the channel for school items. According to the survey, nearly a quarter of families planned to shop drug stores for BTS, an 18% increase over last year’s 18.2%. “Drug stores have become more popular recently as their merchandise mix has broadened,” the report said.

The drug channel was ready. Chains have been sharpening their prices and stocking plenty of value-priced, private-label product to appeal to thrifty consumers. And they got out early. CVS, for example, offered 30% off school supplies through Aug. 7. In July, CVS promoted some BTS items for 99 cents. Those items qualified for a 99-cent instant Extra Bucks rebate so that the items were free after rebate.

Walgreens ran a buy-one-get-two-free promotion on private-label two-pocket folders, one-subject notebooks, composition books and filler paper in mid-July. Such branded products as Crayola crayons and Sharpie markers were included in a 3-for-$1.99 promotion. The circular also included a $3-off coupon on backpacks.

However, even in a price-conscious market, chains found room to offer a dash of fashion merchandise. “As long as the consumer isn’t expected to pay a premium for fashion, there is certainly room for fashion products in this economy,” BIC’s Franzino said.

Kmart, Target and Walgreens stocked Carolina Pad’s Sasquatch line of school and office products composed mostly of recycled materials. The brand’s notebooks have 100% recycled covers and interior pages.

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Stop & Shop to offer flu shots to customers

BY Allison Cerra

QUINCY, Mass. For more than twenty years, Stop & Shop has provided seasonal flu shots as part of its Health & Wellness initiative in a continuing effort to best meet the needs of its customersduring the cough and cold season. This year, Stop & Shop will offer seasonal influenza immunizations at a reduced price to Stop & Shop card holders in the pharmacy department beginning Sept. 11 through Nov. 26 or until quantities associated with this program last.

“As part of our continued commitment to provide value to our customers, Stop & Shop is offering seasonal flu shots for $20 when customers use their Stop & Shop card,” said Jim Wonderly, VP pharmacy operations for Stop & Shop. “Unfortunately, many Americans are foregoing medical care because of increased costs, and we want to do our part by offering affordable immunizations during these challenging economic times.”

Seasonal flu shots will be administered at a reduced price in most Stop & Shop stores starting Friday, expanding to all stores in October. Immunizations will be provided by certified and trained Stop & Shop pharmacists and through Stop & Shop’s partnership with Maxim Health Systems and their trained health care professionals. The cost of the seasonal immunization is $30, but customers with a Stop & Shop loyalty card can save an additional $10. Thus, the final cost to Stop & Shop customers, with the Card, is $20.

“Last month, we introduced millions of customers to the new Stop & Shop card along with a commitment to provide them with the best possible value,” said Stop & Shop EVP Jeff Martin. “With the savings Stop & Shop is offering on seasonal flu shots, we are demonstrating that ongoing value commitment as well as a commitment to the health and wellness of ourcustomers.”

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Louisiana seeks to curb methamphetamine abuse with new legislation

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Two government officials from Louisiana invited the National Association of Chain Drug Stores for a signing of a new law aimed at curbing methamphetamine abuse.

On Sept. 8, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Rep. Fred Mills invited NACDS, law enforcement and other select stakeholders to the Governor’s Mansion for a special signing ceremony for HB890 (Act 314). NACDS was instrumental in the negotiations and eventual passage of the new law which establishes a real-time pseudoephedrine reporting system once federal grants are secured.

The law also provides liability protections to pharmacy, and specifically states that no fees will be collected from pharmacies or pharmacists to operate or transmit the data to state police.

NACDS thanked both Gov. Jindal and Rep. Mills for initiating this important legislation, and for working with pharmacies to make it even better.

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