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Fred’s Super Dollar reports 1.3% lift in October sales overall, 1.4% decline in same-store sales

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fred's Super Dollar on Thursday reported sales of $145.3 million for the four weeks ended Nov. 1, up 1.3% as compared with the same year-ago period. Comparable store sales for the month declined 1.4% versus an increase of 0.8% in the same period last year.
 
"Sales for October were below expectations," said Jerry Shore, Fred's CEO. "While general merchandise sales and traffic were adversely affected by the warmer weather, the primary driver for the sales miss was related to changes made in our layaway program this year and the lack of incremental sales from layaway customer visits during this October as traffic declined late in the month," he said. "Last year, our program was promoted at only $1 down and no layaway fee, which generated a significant increase in layaway sales, but a majority of the merchandise ultimately was never picked up by the customer, causing sales and inventory issues during the fourth quarter."
 
Fred's anticipates a rebound in layaway activity during November and December that should benefit fourth quarter sales this year, Shore said. "Offsetting these adverse developments to some extent was the ongoing strong performance of our pharmacy department, which continued to post higher comparable scripts and sales."
 
Shore noted that sales, inventory clean up and clearance margin pressures experienced in earlier months have been the primary causes of the company's recent losses. These pressures have clearly continued during the third quarter. Consequently, Fred's now expects a net loss for the quarter of $0.12 to $0.16, excluding any special charges related to store closings. The company's new prime pharmacy vendor contract, now fully in effect, is expected to have a significant positive impact on gross margin in the fourth quarter and beyond.
 
"We enter the fourth quarter with new programs and initiatives to capitalize on the convenience and pharmacy advantages we offer our customers," Shore continued. "We know that the upcoming holiday season will be very competitive and internet shopping will continue to make gains, but the fourth quarter programs we have in place will meet the convenience dimension of our customers'shopping needs and drive more trips to our stores," he said. "Looking ahead to 2015, we are confident that the continued growth in pharmacy and the 'need it now' front store layout will provide a strategic foundation for future growth and profitability."
 
Total sales for the third quarter of 2014 were $476.1 million, up 3.4%. Comparable store sales for the quarter increased 0.3% on top of an increase of 1.4% in the third quarter of 2013.
 
Fred's total sales for the nine months of 2014 increased 1.5% to $1.5 billion. On a comparable store basis, year-to-date sales decreased 0.5% compared with an increase of 1.1% for the year-earlier period.
 
During the month, Fred's opened three Xpress locations and moved one Xpress into an existing full-service store, for a net increase of two locations.
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Postal Service enhances delivery to alleviate holiday hassle

BY Ryan Chavis

WASHINGTON — In an effort to handle the expected double-digit package volume growth this holiday season, the Postal Service on Thursday announced that it would be delivering packages seven days a week in major cities and high-volume areas beginning Nov. 17 through Christmas Day.

"The Postal Service will be out making deliveries every single day during the holiday season, including Christmas Day," said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. "During the holidays, no carrier makes more deliveries to more places than the Postal Service, and this year, we're raising the bar with enhanced tracking and Sunday delivery."
 
The demand for package service has increased as online retailers ship more products out to consumers. The Postal Service expects 450 million to 470 million packages this year, a nearly 12% growth over the same time last year. The Postal Service lowered some of its prices for businesses and frequent shippers. Additionally, new priority mail pricing provides more affordable shipping optins, along with better tracking for its business customers. 
 
"Football has its season. But the holidays? That's our season," Donahoe said. "That's crunch time for us, and year after year, we step up our game. E-commerce package business continues to be a big player now more than ever, so we've enhanced our network to ensure America that we'll deliver their cards, gifts and letters in time for the holidays."
 
The Postal Service will launch an advertising campaign today with an eye on bringing in new consumer and business customers. It also noted that consumers can bypass potential holiday hassles by going to USPS.com to take advantage of online services. A full list of shipping deadlines may be accessed at USPS.com/HolidayNews.

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CVS Health expands reach of Project Health to 27 cities

BY Michael Johnsen

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health on Thursday announced the kickoff and major expansion of Project Health, its annual free health-screening campaign, at select CVS/pharmacy locations. Over the next four months, the Project Health wellness program will deliver more than $14 million worth of free health services to multicultural communities with a significant number of uninsured or underinsured individuals across the United States. More than 1,000 Project Health events will be held at select CVS/pharmacy stores in 27 markets.
 
Project Health offers an array of free comprehensive health risk assessments, including blood pressure, body mass index, glucose and total cholesterol screenings. 
 
"The free, comprehensive health screenings offered at our Project Health events can help identify health concerns or risk factors for participants," said Helena Foulkes, EVP CVS Health and president CVS/pharmacy. "By addressing healthcare challenges, such as ethnic disparities and lack of access to preventive care, we can make a difference in the health and well-being of our customers. It's just one more way we are helping people on their path to better health."
 
Additionally, Project Health will feature CVS Health's smoking cessation program, which was designed with the help of national smoking cessation experts. The program includes four important elements: an assessment of the smoker's readiness to quit; information and tools needed to quit; medication support to help curb the desire to use tobacco; and ongoing coaching to help smokers who are trying to quit stay motivated and prevent relapses.
 
"Smoking is the leading cause of premature disease and death in the United States with more than 480,000 deaths annually," Foulkes said. "By offering a comprehensive and uniquely personalized smoking cessation program at our Project Health events, we are making it easier for our customers to take the first step to a healthier life."  
 
Once screened, CVS/pharmacy will help patients through on-site consultations with bilingual (Spanish/English) nurse practitioners or physician assistants who will analyze results and refer patients who require additional medical attention to no-cost or low-cost medical facilities nearby or to their primary care physician if additional follow-up care is necessary. CVS pharmacists will be available to conduct one-on-one medication reviews and answer any questions patients may have.
 
Project Health events also will offer participants information about the health insurance marketplace and their coverage options under the Affordable Care Act. Health insurance experts will be available to provide guidance and support to those who need it throughout the open enrollment period, which runs from Nov. 15, 2014 to Feb. 15, 2015.
 
Project Health is part of CVS/pharmacy's commitment to improve access to health care and ensure that cost is not a barrier to important preventive services. Project Health events, while held in cities with large multicultural populations, are open to everyone and do not require an appointment.
 
Originally held in 10 major markets, Project Health events will be held in 17 additional cities. The Project Health locations include Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Dayton, Ohio; Detroit; Houston; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Louisville, Ky; Memphis, Tenn.; Miami; Milwaukee; Nashville, Tenn.; New Orleans; New York; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Pittsburgh; Richmond, Va.; San Antonio; Tampa, Fla.; and Washington. 
 
Project Health events also are being held at select CVS/pharmacy stores in Puerto Rico through November.
 
Since 2006, Project Health has delivered more than $72 million worth of free healthcare services to nearly 730,000 customers. As a result, many areas of concern among participants were discovered:
 
  • 50% were found to be overweight or obese;
  • 41% had abnormal blood pressure readings;
  • 29% had abnormal glucose readings; and
  • 40% were found to have abnormal cholesterol levels. 
Project Health events will be held from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and/or Sundays at select CVS/pharmacy locations, with no appointment needed. For a full calendar of Project Health events, visit www.cvs.com/projecthealth (in Spanish:www.cvs.com/proyectosalud). 
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