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CVS Caremark declares quarterly dividend

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark’s board of directors has approved a quarterly dividend of $0.0875 per share on the common stock of the corporation, payable May 4 to holders of record on April 23.

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Consumers becoming more conscious of spending habits, report finds

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK Shoppers are expected to be more deliberate and purposeful in their spending going forward, as conspicuous consumption will give way to more conscious or practical consumerism, concluded a new report released Tuesday from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Retail Forward, a Kantar Retail company.

While the report suggested consumers will not be as apt to “trade-down” as the economy recovers, consumers who’ve discovered savings through private label are not expected to return to brands.

“The recession has tempered the rampant and excessive consumption, giving way to more mindful choices as shoppers increasingly seek out online and mobile coupons, comparison shopping sites, and loyalty and rewards programs,” stated Lisa Feigen Dugal, PricewaterhouseCoopers U.S. retail and consumer practice leader. “As consumers become more invested with using these tools in their shopping experience, retailers will need to adapt their strategies to appeal to this new generation of consumers.”

According to the report — titled “The New Consumer Behavior Paradigm: Permanent or Fleeting?” — retailers need to make promotion and savings-related information more easily accessible across all shopper touch points, especially as the explosion of online resources and new mobile phone shopping apps has made it easier for consumers to find a specific item.

As shoppers’ “wants” are steadily reintroduced into the equation, trading-down behavior related to the choice of retailer, product, or brand will lose some traction in the recovery, the report suggested. However, private-label brands will remain a significant factor due to their increasingly higher quality and low cost since retailers don’t have to advertise or promote them to the same degree as national brands.

Research findings included in “The New Consumer Behavior Paradigm” indicated that as many as 20% of consumers will continue to forgo buying items that seem too expensive, resulting in a contraction for the luxury and gourmet foods markets. The emergence of a more thoughtful approach to spending on luxury and non-discretionary goods means shoppers will place a premium on goods that have qualities of timeliness, usefulness and versatility.

“Although we’re starting to see signs of shoppers getting tired of trading down, they remain cognizant of today’s economic realities and need to balance that with personal desires to reward themselves,” stated Mary Brett Whitfield, SVP at Kantar Retail. “Retailers and suppliers can take advantage of this ‘frugal fatigue’ and offer affordable do-it-yourself alternatives to pricier products.”

In the past two recessions, Baby Boomers quickly led the recovery. However, this group has been hit hard by the recession at a point in life when their financial commitments loom large and retirement is on the horizon. Marketers will need to look to the smaller Gen X generation and large Gen Y population to fuel growth in the initial stages of the post-recession recovery. Among Gen X, one segment that will have a meaningful positive impact on spending is “up-market affluents” given their life stage needs and above-average spending potential.

A higher proportion of Gen Y’s income is discretionary as a result of fewer debts and a less-urgent need to accumulate wealth in the immediate term relative to older shoppers. Furthermore, as this generation is accustomed to instant gratification and demands the latest gadgets, spending on technology staples-like MP3 players and smart phones-will remain a priority and create unique opportunities for tech-oriented retailers.

Feigen Dugal added, “Retailers and suppliers must realize that there will not be a wholesale return to previous shopping patterns and behaviors. To succeed during the recovery, they will need to recognize that some shopper segments will still be in a ‘recession’ shopping mode. They must make sure consumer wants are aligned with the marketplace and turn more ‘need to have’ desires into the ‘must have’ needs of Gen X and Gen Y shoppers.”

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FDA committee recommends approval for InterMune’s Esbriet

BY Alaric DeArment

BRISBANE, Calif. A Food and Drug Administration committee has recommended approval for an investigational drug for treating a rare and fatal lung disease.

The FDA’s Pulmonary-Allergy Drugs Advisory Committee voted 9-3 to recommend that the agency approve InterMune’s Esbriet (pirfenidone), InterMune announced Wednesday.

The drug is used to reduce decline in lung function in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that affects around 200,000 people in the United States and Europe. If approved, it would be the first IPF medication for U.S. patients. Because of the disease’s rarity, the FDA granted Esbriet Orphan Drug, Fast Track and Priority Review designations, and the agency is expected to reach a final decision on May 4.

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s advisory committee meeting,” InterMune president, chairman and CEO Dan Welch said in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with the FDA as a review of the Esbriet NDA continues.”

An FDA advisory committee’s recommendations are taken into consideration when the FDA decides whether or not to approve a drug, though they are not binding.

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