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Former Rite Aid exec to head Sears pharmacy

BY Michael Johnsen

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. Venerable pharmacy veteran Mark de Bruin has joined Sears Holdings as senior vp and president of pharmacy, Sears Holding announced Tuesday. “He has a wealth of expertise in developing and managing profitable retail, online and mail order pharmacy businesses,” the company stated.

De Bruin was most recently executive vice president of pharmacy for Rite Aid, with responsibilities for managed-care pharmacy, clinical services, procurement, operations, marketing, financial planning, business development and government relations. He joined Rite Aid Corporation in 2003 after spending four years at Albertsons as vice president of managed health care and pharmacy procurement, where he led the e-business strategy development for Savon.com, Albertson’s online pharmacy.

In other personnel decisions announced Tuesday, Scott Freidheim has joined Sears Holdings as executive vice president of operating and support businesses and member of the internal holding company business unit board of directors. Freidheim has been with Lehman Brothers for more than 17 years, where he most recently served as chief administrative officer and executive vice president of Lehman Brothers Holdings.

And Nick Coe, most recently with Banana Republic, has joined Sears Holdings as senior vice president and president of Lands’ End.

“A little less than a year ago, the company announced a bold effort to transform our business, to make it more entrepreneurial, more effective and more profitable,” stated Bruce Johnson, interim chief executive officer and president of Sears Holdings. “The addition of these great executives underscores the opportunities that Sears Holdings presents for talented individuals. Despite the tough market conditions, we plan to continue to add transformational leaders to our organization. This group of seasoned executives will help move Sears Holdings forward toward our financial priorities—improving margins, tightly controlling expenses and focusing on cash generation.”

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Take Care Health Systems opens new clinics

BY Antoinette Alexander

CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. Take Care Health Systems, which is owned by Walgreens, has opened two new clinics.

A new clinic in the Rockford, Ill. area brings to four the number of total clinics in the market. A new clinic in the Kansas City area brings to 14 the total number of clinics in that market.

The company currently operates 298 clinics in 33 markets throughout 15 states.

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Most consumers believe economy is in a downturn, survey says

BY Michael Johnsen

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. Even as President-elect Barack Obama’s economy package begins to take form, consumers are still not ready to open their purse strings. Not yet. According to a NPD Group survey released Wednesday, 91 percent of consumers believe the economy is still in a downturn, up from 84 percent who felt that way in April.

“Off-hand, that 7 percent increase may not sound like a lot,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group, “but when you turn the spending faucet of 14 million people off, that 7 percent from April to November represents trillions of dollars.”

And the number of consumers who say they will take advantage of sales or coupons has remained relatively steady since July. “So those huge sales that were designed to lure the customer in really don’t seem to have had much of an impact. They aren’t bringing the consumer’s back in to shop,” Cohen said.

Most consumers—57 percent—are cutting back on their spending by cutting down on their number of trips to restaurants, a factor that ought to bode well for grocery outlets. That is followed by cuts in spending on apparel. In the November Consumer Spending Indicator, 52 percent of respondents said they would cut back on apparel spending.

The same categories that were the least vulnerable in last month’s study remain so in the current month’s study with one slight change. Video games and toys remain steady while beauty is being edged out of the No. 3 spot.

Video games take the top spot as the least likely to see cut backs in consumer spending with 32 percent, followed by toys at 36 percent. This month, however, movies took the number three spot at 39 percent. Beauty slipped to forth this month at 41 percent. “But beauty is still showing that women remain loyal to their regimen even in tough times,” Cohen said.

As previously noted, an important measure of how consumers are fairing is how secure they feel about their jobs. In July, 25 percent of respondents said they were not concerned about their jobs, but in November only 19 percent reported they were not concerned.

“This is a number I watch very closely,” Cohen said. “I think it is the best indication of consumer behavior and now, what with the stock market, the political market, the media market and now, the job market, we are seeing an all time low here.”

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