H-E-B adding clinics, new Rx services
“After all, we’re from around here, too.” That message, delivered to millions of Texas consumers via the pharmacy page on H-E-B’s heavily scanned website, lies at the heart of the San Antonio-based supermarket chain’s seemingly unshakeable grip on both customers and patients in the Lone Star State. The H.E. Butt Grocery Co. maintains high marks for customer loyalty, innovative patient care services, a quality shopping experience and plenty of healthy choices in its food aisles.
H-E-B pharmacists now provide health screenings for blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol every second Saturday of the month from March through October, as well as quarterly A1C exams for patients with diabetes. Those patients also are eligible for a free InControl No Coding starter kit when they fill their first script for a diabetes medication.
H-E-B also builds loyalty with its Rx Rewards Platinum card. For a $5 enrollment fee, the card provides discounts on some 500 generic drugs, vaccinations and pet medicines, as well as free health screenings and free prenatal vitamins. Last summer, the company also extended its reach electronically with the launch of an improved website for prescription renewals and a new link with customers’ mobile phones.
To ward off disease, the company’s pharmacies and clinicians now offer periodic immunizations, not only for flu but also for hepatitis A and B, HPV/cervical cancer, measles, meningitis, pneumonia, shingles and tetanus. That appeal to disease prevention has permeated the food aisles as well; H-E-B promotes healthier nutritional choices with programs like its Fully Fit branding program, which identifies healthy foods throughout the store, and the H-E-Buddy campaign, designed to educate kids about healthier foods and snacks.
In partnership with RediClinic, H-E-B aggressively is expanding its network of in-store clinics. RediClinic revealed last fall it will open another 20 clinics in H-E-B stores this year, nearly doubling its presence within the Texas chain, with a focus on the Austin, Houston and San Antonio regions.
Tops in satisfaction, GNP leverages scale
The way chief executive R. David Yost sees it, AmerisourceBergen Corp.’s Good Neighbor Pharmacy program is a bulwark for independent pharmacists against the pressures of a brutally competitive pharmacy market and an unforgiving economy.
Now numbering more than 3,700 independent pharmacies across the United States and Puerto Rico, GNP has become one of the largest drug store brands in the United States. By leveraging the best qualities of the owner-operated pharmacy — a strong community presence, personalized service and the flexibility and willingness to cater to the individual needs of patients — and blending them with the economies of scale, marketing expertise and buying power available to the big retail chains, AmerisourceBergen has built GNP into a powerful national brand.
Consumers appear to be taking notice. For the first time last year, J.D. Power & Associates ranked GNP No. 1 in customer satisfaction among all pharmacy retailers, based on a nationwide survey of more than 12,300 pharmacy customers. What’s more, GNP’s selection as best in service and personal care by consumers came in “the first year that they have been a ranked brand in the study,” said Jim Dougherty, J.D. Power’s director of healthcare practice.
In a recent report, ABC succinctly described its relationship with its huge network of GNP-affiliated independent drug stores. “We deliver prescription pharmaceuticals, private-label [over-the-counter] drugs and other health-related items daily, and we provide business coaching services, marketing support and access to managed care networks,” the company noted.
Key to its relationship with GNP stores, ABC said, is its full-service approach to supplying its customers. “We serve the vast majority of our customers on a prime vendor basis, which means that we provide all of the products that a pharmacy needs to serve its patients on any given day. Due to the high cost of pharmaceuticals, providers do not hold large amounts of inventory on hand; rather, they rely on … just-in-time delivery of the products they need,” ABC said.
ABC brings “tremendous scale” and “operating efficiency” to its independents via this model, the company reported. Through the GNP Premier program, launched three years ago, members also get expertise in managing their business and pricing their merchandise more profitably, and targeting their best customers. Participating independents also can benchmark their operation and business performance against a peer group of similar pharmacies through the GNP InSite market database.
GNP pharmacies also participate in their parent firm’s massive generic purchasing and pricing program, PRxO Generics, for “competitive pricing and new generic products from [more than] 100 manufacturers as soon as they are launched. We provide our customers the financing they need to buy the products. We then use our own purchasing power to secure the best possible value,” ABC reported.
The 3,700 GNP stores also benefit from centrally developed ABC programs “designed to drive continuous improvement, compliance and market penetration,” the company noted. Among those programs: the GNP Provider Network, which links the 3,700 GNP independent operators together with “small and regional chain drug stores and food-and-drug combination stores” served by ABC, according to the company. Together, that national group of independents, small chains and supermarket pharmacies comprise “the fourth-largest managed care provider network in the United States,” according to ABC.
Meanwhile, changes are afoot in ABC’s executive suite with the pending departure of its top executive. Yost announced in March he would retire July 1 after nearly 37 years, the last 14 of them as CEO. Succeeding Yost is COO Steven Collis, and moving up to president of AmerisourceBergen Drug Co. is David Neu, who last served as SVP operations.
GNP also is under relatively new management. Last August, ABC promoted Mike Cantrell to president of GNP, a new position, and group VP retail business development. Cantrell, who was VP professional services at Longs Drug Stores before joining ABC as VP central fill business development in 2009, reports to Jerry Cline, SVP retail sales and marketing. One primary role for GNP, Cantrell said, will be “helping our pharmacists develop their role in healthcare reform, with the understanding that they are a significant component of the solution.”
Kmart perseveres with Rx, clinic deals
One has to admire a person who perseveres through hardship and difficulty, and the same goes for companies that keep going and keep trying, no matter what the market throws at them.
One such company is Sears Holdings and its mass-merchandise chain Kmart. Kmart has borne the brunt of a difficult economy in recent years, facing store closings across the country and declining sales. U.S. sales for the chain in 2009 were $15.7 billion, when it had 1,327 stores, but last year, that number declined to $15.6 billion in 1,307 stores. But that hasn’t stopped Kmart from offering important services at its in-store pharmacies, whose number totaled 981 last year.
In February 2011, Kmart began offering flu shots to customers at 500 of its pharmacies at the reduced price of $15 — or for free to Medicare Part B beneficiaries — while giving those who were members of the Shop Your Way Rewards program 15,000 points — a $15 value — emphasizing the ability of the influenza virus to persist as late as May, past its usual peak season. The company also emphasized the expertise of its pharmacists, available to patients with health-related questions.
Previously, the chain had offered flu vaccinations for $25 at its walk-in flu clinics. Customers who bought a flu vaccination also received a coupon book worth up to $45 and a 10%-off shopping pass for use on health and beauty products and consumables.
Kmart also has leveraged its status as a mass merchandise retailer to attract customers to its pharmacies. In October 2010, it introduced a program whereby customers who transferred their prescriptions over received a $20 Kmart gift card for each prescription transferred, for up to five prescriptions per household. In addition, it introduced the “Transfer for a Cause” program, also donating $5 for up to five prescriptions to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.