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CVS Caremark to distribute free seasonal flu-shot vouchers to the unemployed

BY Allison Cerra

WOONSOCKET, R.I. In response to the current economic state, CVS Caremark announced it has begun to provide 100,000 free seasonal flu shots to the unemployed as part of its efforts to help keep Americans healthy this flu season. The initiative kicks off Thursday at The Work Place, a member of the Massachusetts Career One-Stop Initiative in Boston.

In more than 20 markets across the country, CVS Caremark will offer vouchers for free seasonal flu shots worth a total of $3 million. The vouchers will be distributed at participating One-Stop Career Centers and other select employment training agencies that offer career resources, training, and workforce information to job seekers, students, and businesses.

Beginning the week of Oct. 5, participating employment centers will offer free flu shot vouchers for distribution to their unemployed clients. The vouchers can be redeemed at CVS/pharmacy stores during a scheduled flu shot clinic or at MinuteClinic health centers located within select CVS/pharmacy stores during their regular hours of operation; no appointment necessary. Free flu shot vouchers will not be available at CVS/pharmacy or MinuteClinic.

Participating employment centers are located in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

“The unemployed are particularly vulnerable this flu season, as many lack health insurance or employer coverage for a flu shot. We are excited to get this program underway and to start providing protection for this group as early in the flu season as possible,” said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., chief medical officer for CVS Caremark.

More information on contacting the individual employment centers participating in the free flu voucher program can be found at www.cvs.com/flu.

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GNC seeks competitive edge with new store format

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH In a move that likely will make the specialty retailer a little more competitive against retail pharmacy, GNC on Tuesday unveiled its new retail “experience” that will serve as the company’s prototype for the future in its home market of Pittsburgh.

The store seeks to transform its brand from a destination center primarily for the volatile weight loss diet aids and sports nutrition markets and into more of a premier health and wellness resource for the entire family.

The new 3,000 sq.-ft. location, now open at suburban Pittsburgh’s Ross Park Mall, is a one-stop shopping experience for consumers seeking not only innovative, high-quality fitness and nutritional supplements, but also natural, alternative treatments for holistic wellness. The new store offers nearly triple the number of products available in today’s GNC stores, with 1,000 new items. It features a comprehensive portfolio of health, wellbeing and sports nutrition products – under GNC’s proprietary brands and other best brands in the category – as well as expanded product offerings in the categories of natural health and healing, probiotics, cleansing, proteins and health and beauty.

“GNC is launching an entirely new retail experience that will solidly position our brand and stores as the premier resource for a world class offering of health and wellness products for every member of the family,” stated Joseph Fortunato, GNC CEO. “The new concept store focuses on improving the quality of life for our customers by inspiring healthy and active lifestyles through not only innovative fitness and nutritional supplements, but also a wider assortment of natural and alternative treatments for holistic wellness. Consumers will find products they haven’t typically discovered in a GNC. This retail concept will grow the GNC brand by expanding our customer base, while maintaining loyal core customers, and is one more way that GNC is increasing our ongoing commitment to help consumers ‘Live Well.’’”

GNC’s new store is divided into four individual sections that showcase distinct product categories, the specialty retailer announced. The front space underscores GNC’s increased emphasis on healthy lifestyle management and provides customers with tools to address health, diet and overall wellbeing. Consumers will find products focused on cleansing and detoxifying, weight management nutrition, fit and active accessories and women’s wellness, as well as new categories such as yoga, expanded proteins, meal replacements and portion control. This space also features GNC’s newest innovative line: GNC WELLbeING. Launched in May, it is a comprehensive, one-source line of whole body health products created exclusively for fit and active women, targeting whole body nutrition, fitness nutrition and therapeutic body care.

The second space is the store’s vitamin headquarters. Here, GNC offers a broad assortment of both preventative and condition-specific products for women, men, children and the family pet that address heart health, mood, sleep, diabetes, digestion and more. This section also showcases new health and beauty offerings, including high-performance skincare products for cellulite, stretch marks and teeth whitening, and an enhanced array of natural heath and healing products, such as herbals and homeopathic remedies.

However, GNC is not abandoning what once had been its core market. The back two rooms are designed for GNC’s avid fitness and sports enthusiasts, with greatly expanded product assortments that take the category beyond the body builder. One distinct space targets sports, fitness and hardcore diet consumers with proteins, thermogenics, fitness accessories, nutritional bars, endurance products and drinks. The other is designed for the hardcore body building customer, with an assortment that includes niche designer formulated brands positioned to appeal uniquely to that consumer. The two fitness sections also carry a new assortment of accessories, including books, scales and blood pressure monitors.

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Survey finds U.S. companies are taking flu preparation seriously, amid concerns

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON Business Roundtable’s Partnership for Disaster Response Wednesday morning released the findings of its 2009 Flu Season Survey, which provides insights on how companies are preparing for H1N1 influenza, flu season and their top concerns about the potential effects on employees, customers and business operations.

“The results of our 2009 Flu Season Survey show that U.S. companies are taking the flu very seriously and making great efforts to prepare appropriately,” stated Michael Dan, chairman, president and CEO of The Brink’s Company and chair of Business Roundtable’s Partnership for Disaster Response “Additionally, we’re seeing that companies are using creative channels to communicate key information and updates to their employees, consulting trusted resources such as the CDC and WHO.”

While the survey found that companies are making flu preparation efforts a top priority, many still had a number of concerns, specifically a desire for more information and clarity on the H1N1 vaccine, definitions of severity as they relate to the flu and the government’s plans should the flu become more widespread.

During a conference call Wednesday morning, John Castellani, president of Business Roundtable said, “The top-line findings discussed today are a reminder of how it is incumbent on the business community to work together with the government and other key parties to protect the health and well-being of our employees, fellow citizens and the communities in which we live and work.”

Other key findings of the survey included:

  • 95% of companies have business continuity and crisis plans in place that specifically address flu-related issues;
  • 89% of the companies with business continuity and crisis plans either activated or updated the flu plans since April 2009 because of the H1N1 Influenza outbreak;
  • Two-thirds of member companies said their number-one concern is the H1N1 Influenza vaccine; and
  • 35% of respondents expressed a basic need for information about and clarity on the severity of a H1N1 outbreak as compared with seasonal flu.

Following the outbreak of H1N1 Influenza in April, Business Roundtable’s Partnership for Disaster Response fielded a survey among its member companies – which represent nearly 10 million employees and one-third of the U.S. economy – to provide the federal government with a snapshot of the private sector’s level of preparedness.

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