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Fred’s releases Q4 figures, announces multi-year strategic plan

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Fred’s on Thursday cited the underperformance of 22 pharmacies and 75 stores as significant contributors to a net loss of $4.4 million, or $0.11 per diluted share.

Fred’s total sales for its fiscal year ending Feb. 2 were up 1 percent to $1.8 billion. Comparable store sales increased 0.3 percent.

“Although the fourth quarter, before considering restructuring charges, met our revised plan, it was nevertheless disappointing,” commented Michael Hayes, Fred’s chief executive officer. “The rapid changes in discretionary income for our customer base made us face some very tough decisions.”

Short-term, Fred’s to enhance Fred’s operating and financial performance through store and merchandise refresher programs, tightened inventory disciplines, and improvements to in-stock levels on the chain’s most popular items, Hayes said, a strategy that has already netted tangible results. “For long-term benefits, we are implementing a multi-year strategic plan that involves a stronger focus on operational execution at our best-performing stores and pharmacies,” Hayes said.

In the fourth quarter, Fred’s opened nine stores, closed one store, and opened two pharmacies, bringing the totals for the year to 35 store openings, 20 closed stores, 11 pharmacy openings and four pharmacy closings. 

Fred’s expects to open 18 stores and 15 pharmacies in 2008 and close the 75 underperforming stores and 22 pharmacies during the coming year.

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CVS presents at aging conference in nation’s capital

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark presented at the 2008 NCOA-ASA Aging in America Conference in Washington, D.C., for a discussion on the multigenerational workforce and the importance of mature workers.

Michael Ferdinandi, senior vice president of human resources and corporate communications, co-presented the session “Seizing Business Opportunities with the NEXT Workforce” at the NCOA/MaturityWorks Alliance Workforce Summit.

Ferdinandi spoke about the company’s mature worker initiatives, including creative and flexible benefits options, a welcoming work environment encouraging career advancement at all levels, and strategic public-private partnerships. In the past decade, the company has forged innovative partnerships with local and national agencies and organizations in order to actively recruit employees including mature workers. Currently, roughly 1-in-5 employees is age 50 or older. In addition, the company offers training, convenient locations and flexible work schedules—including a snowbird program that enables employees to shuttle between different store regions on a seasonal basis.

At the conference, Ferdinandi revealed the results of a survey on mentoring in the workplace among CVS pharmacists age 50 and over. The study shows that senior pharmacists view mentoring as personally rewarding, especially when mentoring college students and apprentice pharmacy technicians. The study, conducted by University of Vermont business professor Barbara McIntosh for CVS Caremark, also found that senior pharmacists who are interested in mentoring depend on having proper mentor training in order for the mentoring to be successful. These results reinforced the value of CVS Caremark’s Senior Pharmacist Legacy Mentoring Program.

The program—under which senior pharmacists, working and retired, mentor apprentice pharmacy technicians and high school students—was piloted in Chicago in 2006. Next year, the program will be expanded to Atlanta and Tampa. As the program continues, a tool kit will be developed to allow replicating the project across the country and in other allied healthcare professions.

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Fontana named director of advertising for Discount Drug Mart

BY Michael Johnsen

MEDINA, Ohio Discount Drug Mart on Friday named Anita Fontana its director of advertising and marketing effective April 1.

“We are very excited to bring Anita on board to join our team,” stated Tom McConnell, chief financial officer of Discount Drug Mart. “Her experience, business knowledge, and contacts in the industry will be most helpful in assisting our current and future goals of growing our business.”

Recently, Discount Drug Mart launched a company-wide customer service program called “We C.A.R.E.”, where Fontana took the lead in implementation and was instrumental in the launch across the company with training and education. “The goal of the program is to create awareness of our brand promise and to distinguish Discount Drug Mart as a store that is committed to our customers and communities, are accessible and accurate, are respectful and reliable and will exceed our customer’s expectations,” Fontana said. “Nowadays everyone is busy and sometimes we forget how important a smile and simple hello can brighten someone’s day. It’s critical to our existence we make the shopping trip not only an enjoyable one for our customers, but to train our employees that our most effective marketing tool is each and every one of us personally. By implementing our new “We C.A.R.E” program and brand promise, we are showing our customers we are committed to them 365 days a year,” she added.

Prior to joining Discount Drug Mart, Fontana spent 12 years as the senior vice president of marketing and operations at ECRM and served as the editor of their trade publication ECRM Focus. Following Anita’s time at ECRM she worked closely with the J Joyner Group/Joyner Sales Agency and the TABS Group managing marketing and PR efforts for them, as well as several of their clients.

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