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The health and data link

BY Jim Frederick

As pharmacists embrace efficiency and chains make moves to engage patients digitally artificial intelligence and predictive analytics continue to make steady inroads. Technology experts assert that healthcare providers can improve outcomes by better utilizing data provided by EHRs, insurance claims and even fitness monitoring. Advocates believe that such tools as IBM Watson Health Cloud, which uses data from multiple sources, can improve outcomes for patients with chronic conditions.

The potential for improving population health has spawned some creative alliances between pharmacy chains and data analytics sources. CVS Health, for instance, is more than two years into a partnership with Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM to help chronic disease sufferers through the deep mining and analysis of their health records. And Walgreens made its Balance Rewards card program available to Menlo Park, Calif.-based MedM’s Health Cloud users.

A data-driven approach also was behind a collaboration between Minnetonka, Minn.-based UnitedHealth Group’s OptumRx and Walgreens. The partnership included goals of leveraging Optum’s massive data repository and improving the companies’ ability to “communicate health data and analytics to ensure members receive the most effective prescription drugs at the right cost.” 

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Chase Products aims at quality

BY Seth Mendelson

More than 90 years of “doing things right the first time” tends to pay off.

Just ask officials at the Chase Products Co., the Broadview, Ill.-based manufacturer of private label aerosol items that continues to produce robust sales and profit growth for themselves and their retailer partners as it closes in on the century mark in business.

Chase has long had a strong reputation in the industry as a company that does not cut corners when it comes to manufacturing products. The result has been a steady rise in sales, including double-digit unit and dollar volume growth over the last two years, the highest growth rate in company history.

“One of the reasons for this double-digit growth rate in the last two years was our success with ‘Made in America’ household cleaners to compete with China. We came out with 18 new aerosol products, Chase’s Home Value brand, for the dollar price point,” said Judy Albazi, Chase’s president and CEO. “There are other reasons too, including our great sales team and our consistency in the marketplace. We have some clients that have been with us for 60 years and have no hesitations in marketing products manufactured by our company. That means a lot to us.”

But private label can be a tricky business for manufacturers and retailers alike. While the category tends to pop during difficult economic periods, it can struggle when the economy gets stronger and consumers, especially those searching for quality, are willing to spend more money on the national brand choices. That often leaves retailers wondering just how far they want to go with a private-label or store-brand assortment.

“We know we have to make a statement that our products are just as good as the national brand equivalent,” Albazi said. “Private label is no longer just about having a much better price. Now it is about having a great price and great quality so that consumers will always consider all of the alternatives.”

Retailers, she said, must do their part too, noting that merchants must place the store brand product right next to the national brand equivalent so that consumers understand the price difference and can read the labels of both products.

Established in 1927, Chase Products initially manufactured and distributed insecticides and pesticides. In 1948, it was one of the first three companies granted a license by the Department of Agriculture to provide mosquito abatement solution in pressurized containers to protect American soldiers stationed in jungles overseas.

After that, Chase became the first to manufacture spray paint. Ed Seymour, founder of Seymour of Sycamore, based in Sycamore, Ill., had paint, a prototype spray gun, and a clever idea, and Carl Svendsen, founder of Chase Products, had a manufacturing plant equipped with aerosol filling equipment.

Things moved quickly after that venture. Company officials say that Chase went on to become the first company in the country to develop hair spray and the second to formulate and package spray snow. Other achievements included being the first company to package natural starch in aerosol form and to formulate and manufacture an antiperspirant deodorant in an aerosol can.

In 2011, Chase introduced Champion Sprayon Green World N products, the first full line of Environmental Protection Agency Safer Choice-certified continuous spray Jan-San products. Chase also provides its own national-brand equivalent formulas to wholesalers and retailers across the country and around the world, Albazi says. These products bear the Champion Sprayon name, or carry another of Chase’s nationally-recognized labels such as Champion’s Choice, Green World N, Chase’s Home Value, ProsALL, Kill Zone, Smooth Track, ColorSpray, Decorating Magic, or Santa.

All told, Chase manufactures and distributes around 600 SKUs at its factory in Broadview. Along with a distribution center in nearby LaGrange, Ill., the company operates more than 200,000 square feet of production/distribution space and employs about 100 workers. The product lines are for such categories as aerosol household products, spray paints, insecticides, automotive and bench sprays, personal care, and craft products. The company partners with more than 50 different retailers, ranging in size from single shops and small merchants to some of the largest retailers in the country, said Albazi, who has been with Chase Products for 43 years.

“I think what really got us on the right track was back in the 1980s when generic products started to become such a big deal and many were just terrible,” Albazi noted. “We came on the scene with products with national-brand equivalent quality and at a lower cost to the shopper. We were squarely positioned between the generics and the national brands and it gave consumers a legitimate choice to pick from.”

The future looks bright for the company, particularly as more retailers, and consumers, look for American-made products. “We think that a lot of consumers are searching for American-made merchandise and we are right in step with that philosophy,” Albazi added. “All of our raw materials are from the United States and that helps us a lot. Plus the new line of dollar store aerosols shows the industry our ability to innovate.”

So what is the goal? “We just want to get bigger as a company and better as a marketer and manufacturer,” Albazi said. “Over the years, we have done all we could to make this a great company and a company that every employee here can be proud of. And, we have done all we could to help our retail partners make more profit and build a better image with their customers. We are proud of what we have become.”

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Editor‘s note: A brave new world

BY Seth Mendelson

This year could be the most important year for retail since, well, since all the way back in 2017.

At the outset, it is certainly shaping up that way, especially with a host of major retailers looking to do all they can to compete with Amazon and its growing online presence, not to mention taking a few points away from each other.

Let’s just take a look at some of the recent events. As we discuss in our cover story this month, CVS Health is buying Aetna to become a larger player in the healthcare market. Target is buying Shipt, a same-day delivery service that company officials believe will give them a chance to better compete online, for a cool $550 million. Walmart is buying just about everything in sight to give the company all the ammunition possible to compete digitally.

Expect more of the same this year.

In fact, the merger/acquisition activity should kick up a bit in 2018 as the larger merchants continue to try to solidify their online presence with consumers, and some other players, including Kroger, Macy’s, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Toys ‘R Us, seek ways to stay relevant in this changing world of retail.

Why now? Several reasons, say the experts. One is that as the fear of Amazon taking over all of retail subsides and the reality that it is most definitely a major force in the industry takes hold, other retailers are beginning to make sensible and logical moves to compete. The second, some say, is that the money is available for retailers to make these moves, which means investors are willing to bet that certain smart, well-thought out moves will pay off for these retailers over both the short and long terms.

The road map exists. When Walmart was gobbling up market share in the mass and food retail segments in the 1990s and many industry observers feared the sky was falling for the rest of the industry, sensible operators took the right steps to establish their own niches in the marketplace. The result was mass casualties among the merchants who did not change, and a robust retail environment for those who did.

It is going to happen again, and the next 12 months will go a long way in determining which retailers have the foresight — and the intestinal fortitude — to take the right steps to survive in a new age of retailing.

Walmart, CVS and, perhaps, Target are taking steps to ensure not only their basic survival but their long-term success. Mistakes will happen and some money will be lost, but doing nothing is no longer an alternative in retail merchandising and marketing. 

Yes, 2018 has all the makings of being a crucial year for retail. But it will not be any more crucial than 2017 was or 2019 will be. Welcome to a brave new world. Now go out and conquer it.

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