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CVS’ merger of PBM units: It’s about time

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The news that CVS Caremark is making an investment to integrate its five pharmacy benefit management units isn’t really a big surprise and, in fact, could have some industry observers wondering what took this well-oiled acquisition machine so long.

(THE NEWS: Report: CVS Caremark to merge PBM units. For the full story, click here)

The reality is that the company is applying a discipline it has applied to the retail side of its business to its PBM business. Over the years, CVS’ management has established a proven track record of acquiring stand-alone drug store chains and quickly assimilating the acquired operations into the CVS footprint, including converting store systems. For example, think back to its 2006 acquisition and integration of the roughly 700 standalone Sav-On and Osco drug stores from Albertsons and, prior to that, its acquisition of some 1,260 Eckerd stores.

Now with Per Lofberg in his new role as PBM president, it appears as though CVS Caremark is ready to tackle the PBM units and integrate their cobbled together information systems.

As one can imagine, the financial investment will be significant (a dollar figure hasn’t been disclosed but CVS said it will be “substantial”), but the upside will be improved internal processes, productivity and costs.

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Walgreens gift cards in demand by American consumers, index finds

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK An independent research and advisory group found that when it comes to gift cards, American consumers want them from one of the largest drug store chains.

The Global Prepaid Exchange found that gift cards from Walgreens were among the top preferences of American adults, according to 2,300 people surveyed in its Gift Card Performance Index. The drug store chain ranked No. 8 on the list.

Dan Horne, professor of Providence College in Rhode Island and the study’s principle investigator, said the high levels of consumer performance result from an interaction between the store and the gift giver’s perception of the tastes of the recipient.

“If a gift card giver really thinks about the kinds of store that a recipient likes, they will certainly make the experience more rewarding,” Horne noted. “Gift cards tend to be effective gifts because they show thought about the type of stores that recipients like, while still promoting a sense of autonomy and choice.”

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United Supermarkets launches NuVal nutritional scoring system

BY Allison Cerra

LUBBOCK, Texas In an effort to aid its customers in making healthy food choices, United Supermarkets is implementing a nutritional scoring system throughout its United Supermarkets, Market Street and Amigos United grocery stores.

NuVal is a ranking system that provides comprehensive nutritional information of foods through a comprehensive scoring system. With the NuVal System currently assisting guests at Market Street’s Colleyville and Frisco, Texas, stores to better food choices, United debuts as the first grocery chain to implement the innovative nutritional ranking system in Texas.

All six of the company’s Dallas-Fort Worth area Market Street stores will feature the NuVal system by mid-March, and the company plans to have all 50 stores outfitted with the new system by the end of the year.

“NuVal’s innovative food scoring system is revolutionizing the shopping experience, and we’re proud to be the first Texas grocer to bring this innovation to our aisles,” said Robert Taylor, EVP and CEO, United Supermarkets.

In addition to the NuVal implementation, United staffs dietitians throughout its stores and serves as one of the founding members of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, whose stated mission is to reduce obesity by 2015. HWCF members already have committed more than $20  million to the joint initiative to raise awareness about the importance of balancing a healthy diet with physical activity.

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