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Duane Reade announces total sales increase for Q1

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK Duane Reade announced on Tuesday that it narrowed its first quarter net loss as total sales rose 3.1 percent to $427.1 million as new chairman and chief executive John Lederer expressed optimism in Duane Reade’s potential.

Filling the top spot vacated by Rick Dreiling in late January, Lederer, from 2001 to 2006, served as president of the Canadian supermarket chain with more than 1,000 corporate and franchise stores under various operating banners. During his 30-year career at Loblaw and its subsidiary companies, Lederer has held a number of senior positions throughout the organization, including executive vice president responsible for merchandising, operations and profit performance of all Loblaw businesses in eastern Canada.

In a conference call with analysts to discuss its first quarter results, Lederer said he has spent his time absorbing and learning more about the company by visiting stores to talk with customers and employees.

He said the changes that have taken place within the Duane Reade under the direction of Dreiling are tangible and sustainable and there is a strong foundation on which to build.

That is not to say that challenges do not exist. Lederer told analysts that the business has and will continue to evolve and the shifts in management undoubtedly add some uncertainty. In addition, the company may face such headwinds as the macro economic conditions creating challenges for many retailers. However, he stressed that business will continue as usual so the stride will not be broken. Lederer said he wants the transition to be seamless and wants to maximize Duane Reade’s potential.

Looking ahead, the company will develop additional initiatives to elevate the brand and the business but Lederer did not discuss details.

Total sales rose 3.1 percent to $427.1 million from $414.4 million in the year-ago period. Same-store sales rose 4.5 percent, while front-end same-store sales rose 7 percent. Pharmacy same-store sales increased 1.5 percent.

Front-end sales, which benefited from the earlier timing of the East holiday by 0.5 percent, were driven by strong sales of food and beverage categories, OTC products, and health and beauty care items.

Net loss for the quarter totaled $21 million compared with $30.5 million in the prior year. The operating loss was $4.1 million compared with $14.9 million in the year-ago period.

For 2008, the company reaffirmed its guidance of adjusted FIFO EBITDA in the range of $90 million to $95 million driven by net retail store sales, excluding pharmacy resale activity, in the range of $1.72 billion to $1.736 billion. Total same-store sales are expected to grow between 3.3 percent to 4.3 percent.

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CVS, JVS open learning center to help disadvantaged

BY Drew Buono

BOSTON CVS Caremark, in partnership with the Jewish Vocation Service, today opened its first CVS/Pharmacy Regional Learning Center. The goal of the center is to provide disadvantaged individuals opportunities to find employment and build careers.

Under the agreement, JVS will provide pre and post employment services to trainees, while CVS will provide a learning center to hire and develop associates. The Regional Learning Center houses classrooms and a mock CVS/pharmacy store—complete with a state-of-art pharmacy, photo lab and beauty center—to train new and current associates, from entry level to management.

“Thanks to CVS Caremark’s training program, thousands of Boston’s residents will be able to develop the skills needed to be successful in the workplace,” said Jerry Rubin, president and chief executive officer of JVS. “We are honored to support such a remarkable program and partner with an organization that shares a common goal of opening the doors to jobs with real career and earning potential for the Boston community.”

For the rest of this year, CVS and JVS are aiming to train more than 3,000 new and current employees at the center. Some of these employees will be welfare-to-work participants as well as refugees.

CVS has eight other learning centers located in Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

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Hallmark offers self-recorded musical cards in time for Mother’s Day

BY Drew Buono

KANSAS CITY, Mo. Hallmark has unveiled its latest innovation for its greeting cards. The company now offers cards that allow the user to record messages into a card, which will then be followed by music.

Recordable Cards with Music allow the sender to record up to 10 seconds of a personal message, which is then immediately followed by a pre-recorded song clip. The message and music play whenever the card is opened. The company is launching the new cards to coincide with Mother’s Day, the third busiest business day for the company.

“Card senders are always looking for ways to tell loved ones how much they care. New Recordable Cards With Music let senders use their own voices to tell their moms exactly how they feel,” said Andre du Broc, editorial director at Hallmark. “There is nothing else like it in the greeting card industry.”

Hallmark offers 15 Recordable Cards With Music in the Mother’s Day greeting card line. For more about new Recordable Cards With Music, and to view and hear a demonstration, visit www.Hallmark.com/addyourvoice.

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