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Clinic operators define future success strategies

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON Drug Store News co-sponsored in October the first annual Retail Clinic Vendor Fair.—Looking to bring clinic operators and suppliers together for one-on-one power sessions and to discuss the importance—and needs—of nurse practitioners working in such settings, the Convenient Care Association and

The event, which was held here at Hotel Palomar Oct. 15 to 17, marked the second time that Drug Store News has teamed up with CCA. The first co-sponsored event, held in Philadelphia in March, was a Retail Health Clinic Summit.

During the vendor fair, Web Golinkin, chief executive officer of clinic operator RediClinic, officially stepped in as CCA president. He succeeds Hal Rosenbluth, chairman of Take Care Health Systems and senior strategy consultant of health care for Walgreens, who served as the CCA’s first president.

In his address on the year ahead, Golinkin said the next 12 months will be critical, in part, because healthcare reform will be in the spotlight of the upcoming presidential campaign. Not to mention the fact that the convenient care industry has faced some resistance from members of the medical community.

Going forward, Golinkin said, it will be important for clinic operators to continue to deliver and document the ability to deliver quality care; consistently communicate the benefits to key constituents and continue to collaborate with others in the healthcare system.

“CCA is a work in progress but with Hal’s help we have come a long way in a short time,” Golinkin said. Also on the agenda was an educational program featuring the introduction of proprietary research results on the retail clinic industry, presented by Rob Eder, editor-in-chief of Drug Store News and Retail Clinician magazine.

Among the research findings: nurse practitioners are seeking new information that will help them counsel patients, including more NP-focused CME. In fact, when asked what types of information or resources would help them in their job, the response was overwhelming and very clear: CME. Also high up on the list was disease state information, OTC product updates and new generic drug introductions.

The study also found that nurse practitioners overwhelmingly are satisfied with the opportunity to deliver health care in this new patient care environment. In fact, 74 percent described themselves as either extremely satisfied or very satisfied with their current jobs.

The nationwide survey was conducted online between August and September. Results are based on the responses of about 150 nurse practitioners.

The event featured a panel discussion with several CCA members. Topics covered included legislative process and regulations, technology, staffing and quality assurance.

“Let’s be honest. If a nurse practitioner is good enough to save the life of America’s finest in Iraq, they certainly can handle pink eye in Peoria,” Rosenbluth said during his address to attendees. “The fact is there are simply not enough providers and we need more doctors and nurses of all skill sets and specialties. The system is broken and needs to be fixed and integrated.”

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Big crowds greet Tesco debut in Los Angeles

BY Doug Desjardins

LOS ANGELES Tesco wanted to make a good impression with its Nov. 8 Fresh & Easy debut in Los Angeles—a city where image is everything—and it did just that with a huge crowd jamming the aisles on opening day. Company officials reported similar turnouts at five other grand openings in Southern California and acknowledged customer response exceeded expectations.

More than one hundred people stood in line waiting to get into the Los Angeles store, with employees letting customers in as others left. And what they saw inside was a Tesco’s new hybrid combining elements of Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and 7-Eleven with some borrowings from its stores in Europe.

The basic concept of Fresh & Easy is a convenient shopping experience with an emphasis on healthy food and prepared meals from its Fresh & Easy private label. During a brief tour of the crowded store, Uwins explained that 50 percent of its food offerings are from its private label and that everything is created, cooked and packaged at its own state-of-the art “kitchen” in Southern California, including all of its prepared meals.

“We expected pre-prepared meals to be a massive hit here in the U.S.,” said Simon Uwins, Tesco’s chief marketing officer. “And so far, judging from the gaps we see in our refrigerated cases, they’re being cleared out rather fast.”

Several things set Fresh & Easy apart from other grocery retailers like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, the two it resembles the most. As Uwins mentioned, its Fresh & Easy private label has a 50 percent penetration rate and is represented in nearly every major food category including produce, meat, prepared meals, juice, coffee and mixed nuts.

And that reliance on private label allows it to offer some very competitive prices. Overall, Tesco says its prices are well below its main rivals at standard supermarkets. “We estimate our prices are about 20 percent lower than most supermarkets in the area,” said Uwins.

Its selection general merchandise, health and beauty and over-the-counter medications is small supermarket standards and runs more along the lines of a convenience store, though with a broader assortment. Basics like paper towels, diapers and pet food are stocked in a single aisle and its HBC and OTC products are located on one long shelf toward the back of the store capped with a section for greeting cards and magazines.

The rather small selection—and the complete lack of private label products—shows Fresh & Easy is primarily about the food, though that could change. “There are no private label products outside of food right now but that’s not to say that won’t change,” said Uwins.

The in-store signage is also unique and stamps Fresh & Easy as an organic and eco-friendly retailer, a good image for Southern California. Nearly every green, cardboard endcap features a message about its products including “all our bagged coffee is certified organic” and “our desserts contain 0 percent trans fats.” LED lighting is also used in the store, something else pointed out in its signs. The store doesn’t sell cigarettes but do carry a large selection of wine along with liquor and beer.

The checkout system is completely automated with 100 percent assisted self-checkout. Five checkout stands are small and designed for 15 items or less and the rest are a bit larger with scanners and self-pay systems (though there were plenty of employees nearby to help out people not familiar with the concept).

As expected, Tesco had some detractors at its grand openings in the form of labor unions and neighborhood groups. The Carpenters Local 1506 picketed in front of the Los Angeles store and handed out fliers claiming that a group hired by Tesco to help build its stores “does not meet area labor standards, including paying for health care and pension for all its employees on all projects.”

Tesco has a second wave of five openings planned for Las Vegas on Nov. 14 and plans to have stores open in the San Diego market in late November and Phoenix in early December. It expects to have 50 stores operating in California, Nevada and Arizona by next February.

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Costco announces October sales figures

BY Doug Desjardins

ISSAQUAH, Wash. Costco reported a big 9 percent jump in same store sales in October.

Leading the way was a 17 percent increase in sales at its international stores with U.S. sales jumping 7 percent. The increase beat the 5.7 percent average predicted by analysts for the month.

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