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Costco looks to open down under in ’09

BY Doug Desjardins

BELLEVUE, Wash. Costco plans to open its first store in Australia in 2009 and is currently looking at sites for its first store down under.

At its annual shareholders meeting in Bellevue, Wash. on Jan. 29, Costco chairman of the board Jeffrey Brotman said Costco plans to “open in Australia sometime next year” when asked about the chain’s plans for international expansion.

Costco executive vice president and chief financial officer Richard Galanti later confirmed that Costco is searching for sites in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. “We’re looking at opening there in 2009 if everything goes as expected,” said Galanti.

But Costco is still not ready to entertain a move into China. Brotman said Costco has been looking at China for years and said it’s, “still undecided, though we’re taking a hard look at it.”

During his presentation, chief executive officer Jim Sinegal said Costco continued to push eco-friendly ideas in stores last year. He said Costco increased the number of stores powered by solar energy to 13 and that the company is considering solar panels for 25 more locations.

Sinegal also confirmed the 531-store chain plans to open 29 new stores this year and estimates Costco could eventually open 1,025 stores worldwide with more than 700 warehouses in the U.S.

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Rose Displays introduces Butterfly Track sign-hanging system

BY Adam Kraemer

SALEM, Mass. Rose Displays unveiled its new Butterfly Track system for displaying graphics hung from the ceiling.

Consisting of upper tracks that secure flush against the ceiling and moveable cross-bars, Butterfly Track allows for maximum versatility in sign placement, as the cross-bars can be added or removed as desired. Visual display professionals can adapt the system to new promotions without being limited by the initial purchase configuration.

With its easy-to-use hangers, Butterfly Track enables graphics to be moved easily from left-to-right or front-to-back simply by altering the position of the hangers. Butterfly Track is ideal for window boxes where changing displays keep the look fresh, the company stated.

Butterfly Track works with Rose Displays’ Butterfly Clips and its soon-to-be-available Mighty Mite Anchors. It is compatible with the company’s full line of hanging accessories including Cable, Ball Chain and Hooks.

Stock finishes are clear anodized aluminum and Ceiling White aluminum. Custom colors are also available, though minimum run lengths apply. Interested customers can learn more by calling 800-631-9707 or visiting the website at www.rosedisplays.com.

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CheckUps to close 23 Wal-Mart in-store clinics

BY Adam Kraemer

NEW YORK Walk-in clinic operator CheckUps has confirmed that it has closed 23 clinics in Wal-Mart in four southern states, according to published reports.

The clinic operator, which last year added 20 clinics to the first three it acquired in Florida, was unable to pay its bills, according to the New York Times. The company, the paper claimed, was unable to pay its nurses and vendors, and owes over $100,000 to Medtracker Personnel, a Louisiana employment agency that supplied the clinics with nurses.

Wal-Mart began testing in-store health clinics in September 2005 as part of a push to offer less expensive health-care alternatives. Lee Scott, Wal-Mart’s chief executive, said last year that the chain could serve as landlord to as many as 2,000 clinics by 2014. “We are working to reopen the clinics as quickly as possible, whether or not they are operated by CheckUps,” Wal-Mart representative Deisha Galberth said.

To populate the space in its stores, Wal-Mart leases in-store space to outside non-emergency medical operators, such as CheckUps. The clinics provide basic preventive and such health services as cholesterol screenings and treatment for sore throats. Wal-Mart has leased space to about 80 clinics in stores across the country, including the CheckUps clinics now closed. They are all operated by independent firms, including 13 by RediClinics and two by hospital companies in Wisconsin and Florida.

“It was necessary to do a restructuring on relatively short notice,” CheckUps spokesman William Armstrong said of the closures. CheckUps operated clinics in Wal-Mart stores in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Wal-Mart said Monday that it was concerned about the impact on clinic customers. “It is obviously not a good thing that CheckUps has decided to close,” said Galberth. Wal-Mart had also reportedly been discussing making leasing deals with independent clinic operators that would be affiliated with local and regional hospitals, Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association, told the Times.

For its part, CheckUps still holds the lease on the spaces and chief executive Jack Tawil is working with investors on plans for going forward. “They’re hopeful to continue in as many of the existing venues as they can,” Armstrong stated.

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