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Drug stores push for back-to-school shoppers

BY Doug Desjardins

High gas prices and inflation are putting a strain on family budgets, and most analysts are expecting a sub-par back-to-school shopping season. And that’s why pharmacy retailers are putting more emphasis on promotions with sharp price reductions on school supplies and other general merchandise products.

Walgreens has made Hannah Montana the focus of its back-to-school promotion with displays loaded with licensed product from the Disney Channel star. The endcaps are jammed with more than a dozen items including binders, notebooks, message boards and pens. And some products are available exclusively at Walgreens.

“We have Hannah Montana and High School Musical dry erase boards for lockers that are exclusive to us,” said Walgreens spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce.

Walgreens also is offering low prices on basic school supplies and cut prices by 20 percent on back-to-school-themed products from its photo department, including personalized mousepads, posters and photo clings.

CVS has reduced prices on all school supplies and marked sales items with bright yellow WOW signs to call out bargains. The deals include a 20 percent reduction on the price of backpacks and an endcap near checkout stands that stock a mix of marked-down products priced as low as 50 cents. They include mini-notebooks, highlighters and single-use cameras.

CVS Extra Care members are receiving a 2 percent return on every dollar spent on back-to-school products, money that will be made available on Oct. 1 just before the start of the holiday shopping season. And it staged weekly buy-one-get-one-free deals on back-to-school products in August for products ranging from backpacks to specialty pens.

Rite Aid is offering lower prices on its less expensive, private-label line of school supplies like Harvard Square and Office Experts, which include staplers, calculators and push pins. Longs Drug stores are dedicating an entire aisle to back to school products, and the chain sent out back-to-school coupon books to drive consumers into stores. Longs also cut prices by up to 25 percent on basic school supplies like Five Star Binders from Mead.

Back-to-school promotions are more of a challenge this year given the state of the economy. According to a Deloitte study, 71 percent of consumers surveyed said they would spend less on back-to-school shopping this year, with 48 percent planning to reduce spending by more than $100. It also showed that 45 percent of consumers would shop at stores that offer lower prices and put off buying certain products as long as possible.

“These survey results indicate that consumers will likely stick to the basics this fall,” said Stacy Janiak, Deloitte’s U.S. retail leader.

The National Retail Federation has a more optimistic view. It’s predicting an increase in spending, with families with children in kindergarten through 12th grade spending $599.24 compared with $563.49 in 2007.

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Walgreens donates food, supplies as new storms target Gulf, Southeast

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens has sent truckloads of food, water and emergency supplies to Baton Rouge, La., to aid with continuing Hurricane Gustav relief efforts.

Among the necessities shipped to hard-hit residents: water, trail mix, granola bars and other snack items, along with infant formula and diapers. Walgreens reports it is also gathering supplies to place on standby for a swift response to new emergency requests across the nation’s southeast coast with the expected arrival of Tropical Storm Hanna this weekend and Hurricane Ike next week.

“We’ll direct critical resources to communities in need,” said Walgreens director of community affairs John Gremer. “We’re on alert, and we’ll be ready to help wherever we can.”

The company notes there is still “tremendous need in many Baton Rouge communities,” which were among the hardest hit by Gustav. “Thousands remain without electricity, and food and water are still in high demand,” the company reports.

Another priority is getting any stores that were closed due to the storm back open quickly, according to the chain. As of Friday morning, Walgreens reported, “all but one of Walgreens’ 15 Baton Rouge stores are open. Across the Gulf Coast region, only nine remain closed down from 69 closed immediately following the storm.”

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Rite Aid donates $44,500-plus in supplies for Gustav evacuees

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. To further assist evacuees of Hurricane Gustav, The Rite Aid Foundation is donating more than $44,500 worth of supplies including water, snacks, sunscreen, hand sanitizer and other personal hygiene products as requested by the Louisiana Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross to be distributed at shelters for evacuees, the Foundation announced Friday

“Throughout the Gulf Coast, widespread flooding and violent wind damage have created an urgent need for disaster support,” stated Jeff Towers, chief development officer at the American Red Cross. “Rite Aid generously responded to this need through in-kind and financial support to help the Red Cross provide food, shelter and counseling to Gulf Coast communities during this hurricane season.”

Earlier this week, The Rite Aid Foundation made a $75,000 donation to the American Red Cross to help the victims, families and communities affected by Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. A relief team of Rite Aid associates, including store cashiers and pharmacists, have traveled from Tennessee and unaffected areas of Louisiana and Alabama to help stores that have been impacted and to help reopen additional stores.

“One of Rite Aid’s core values is to be caring neighbors in the communities we serve, and we are happy to work with the American Red Cross to help the evacuees of Hurricane Gustav,” commented Mike Seesholtz, Rite Aid regional vice president for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. “Our associates have been amazing in their commitment to do whatever they can to help the victims of Hurricane Gustav.”

Residents displaced by the hurricane can visit any open Rite Aid for their prescriptions because the company’s satellite-linked computer network assures a complete customer prescription history at any Rite Aid store. Because of the state of emergency, Rite Aid pharmacies also can access prescription information for patients who do not normally get their prescriptions at Rite Aid.

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