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Consumer survey results show more shoppers doubtful about economy

BY Michael Johnsen

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. The majority (86 percent) of U.S. consumers believe the country is currently in a recession and more than half (54 percent) believe it will last longer than 12 months, according to a new online survey released last week by The Nielsen Company, conducted in the midst of economic turmoil last month.

“By the end of the second quarter, most U.S. consumers had already come to the conclusion the country was in recession,” said James Russo, vice president of marketing, The Nielsen Company. “As far as consumers are concerned, it doesn’t particularly matter that a growing number of economic indicators are pointing in that direction. They were feeling pain in their wallets and bank accounts long before October’s tumultuous stock market activity.”

Only 18 percent of those surveyed believed the recession will be over within a year.  The least amount of confidence was expressed by 25- to 29-year olds, with just 6 percent saying the recession would end in the next 12 months. Similarly, only 7 percent of consumers age 65 and over expressed optimism that the recession would soon run its course.

“Younger consumers grew up in an era of prosperity and have never really known economic challenges to this extent,” Russo said. “To them perhaps, the current economic downturn is uncharted territory. There is a pervasive feeling of uncertainty, and concern which is clearly affecting spending levels. Older consumers are understandably concerned because of the potential impact of the economic downturn on their near-term financial needs.”

Of greater concern is the fact that more women than men feel the U.S. economy is in a recession, 91 percent versus 82 percent, especially as in many households women are the primary shoppers. When asked about the state of their own personal finances over the next 12 months, 39 percent of females responded “not so good” compared to 28 percent of males. Only 16 percent of women surveyed think their job prospects over the next 12 months will be good, compared to 26 percent of men.

The pessimism around the state of the economy has prompted many consumers to notch some new holes into their collective belts. Nielsen’s survey found that more than two-thirds of consumers are trying to save on gas and electricity, 56 percent are cutting back on out-of-home entertainment, spending less on new clothes (55 percent) or using their cars less often (54 percent). 

Just 4 percent report taking no action at all.

And any increase in discretionary income may not provide an immediate lift to the economy, the survey found, because many of those consumers are taking any extra cash they may have and placing it into savings accounts (38 percent of consumers) or paying off old debts (36 percent).

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Take Care to open larger office in Franklin, Tenn.

BY Michael Johnsen

FRANKLIN, Tenn. Take Care Health Systems on Friday announced that the retail clinic operator will hold a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony at its new Franklin office on Nov. 10.

“This is a very exciting day for our company. We are proud to relocate key functions of Take Care Health Systems, including the legacy CHD Meridian business, to Franklin to support the future growth of Walgreens Health and Wellness division,” stated Peter Hotz, divisional vice president of Walgreens and president of Take Care Health Employer Solutions. “Further, we are excited that our workplace health and pharmacy services and in-store health clinics are expanding in the Nashville-area and beyond. We look forward to becoming part of the Franklin community and continuing to give back to the Metro Nashville-area through good corporate citizenship and job creation.”

The Williamson County-Franklin Chamber of Commerce will co-host the event, which will be attended by Mayor Rogers Anderson, Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer Nancy Conway and United Way of Williamson County president and chief executive officer Ann Buchanan.

Take Care Health Systems is part of Walgreens Health and Wellness division, and consists of two businesses: Employer Solutions, a provider of workplace health, pharmacy, fitness and wellness services, and Consumer Solutions, Take Care Clinics located at Walgreens drug stores throughout the country.

The Health and Wellness division was formed in May 2008 following Walgreens acquisition of the two largest companies in worksite health management, including formerly Nashville-based CHD Meridian Healthcare.

The 50,000 square-foot facility is home to 150 current employees with space for upwards of 250 additional employees in the future. Amenities at the facility include a fitness center, training room and indoor and outdoor break area. As a sign of commitment to the growing division, Walgreens purchased the building earlier this year.

The Franklin office is the largest support center within Take Care Health Systems. Take Care Health Employer Solutions services 180 clients across 364 sites. There are 277 Take Care Clinics located at Walgreens drugstores across the country, with 13 located in the Nashville area and a total of 19 clinics in Tennessee.

The event will also feature a check presentation to the United Way of Williamson County.

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Anticipating lower costs, Wegmans announces extensive price cuts

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCHESTER, N.Y. Wegmans on Thursday announced price cuts on hundreds of products in anticipation of lower costs of goods in the future.

 “We are lowering hundreds of prices in anticipation of our costs dropping in the future, and we intend to bring more prices down as soon as we can,” stated  Danny Wegman, chief executive officer, and Colleen Wegman, president, in a letter to employees. “These are uncertain times. We know our employees and customers are very concerned, and so are we. During difficult times like these, it’s OK with us if we make a little less money. And, as always, we are committed to offering the lowest price in the market on the items most important to families. We hope these savings will help you enjoy your time with family even more this holiday season.”

Wegmans explained that in spite of presently falling gasoline prices and declining wholesale prices for corn, wheat and soybeans, food prices have not come down anywhere because manufacturers and producers, including Wegmans, had locked into contracts when costs were much higher and concerns that costs would rise even higher. “Though the lower costs we expect in 2009 haven’t arrived yet, we think it’s necessary to lower prices now,” stated Jo Natale, director of media relations. “As a family-owned business, we can accept leaner profits in order to put employees’ and customers’ needs first.”

 Natale declined to disclose the impact on Wegmans’ bottom line, but said that based on anticipated sales of these products, the total value of price cuts to consumers would amount to $12 million on an annualized basis.  For an average consumer shopping for a family, the savings could amount to as much as $40 to $60 a month.

Items reduced in price can be found in such departments as bakery, meat, produce, deli and grocery, with many of the items targeted for price cuts being Wegmans private label.  “We can be more aggressive with reductions because we have better access to detailed information on the factors that determine costs for those items,” Natale said.  “These products are already the best value in their respective category, and customers are choosing them more often as a way to save money.”

Over the next week, Wegmans will begin to highlight the price cuts with signage in stores.  

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