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Health Mart’s Life Center a new option for diabetics

BY DSN STAFF

MCDONOUGH, Ga. —As McKesson Corp. continues to ramp up its Health Mart franchise pharmacy operation, the wholesale and healthcare giant also continues to roll out new customer service and merchandising initiatives for the fast-growing franchise network. And one of the most successful of those recent offerings is the Diabetes Life Center, an in-store merchandising concept that ties together a broad array of products and gives them a high-profile, clearly identified home within the drug store.

Health Mart owners can choose from a menu of offerings. And more of them are opting for the diabetes service and product concept, which most of them got their first look at last summer at McKesson’s annual customer trade show.

The Diabetes Life Center is a Health Mart-exclusive program, open to any of the nearly 1,900 independent drug stores operating within the Health Mart franchise program for a one-time fee of $300. In return for that fee, stores can draw on a variety of tools to market more effectively to diabetics.

Those resources include professional merchandising support, including planograms and promotions; marketing support, with a consumer Web site and an online marketing toolkit; department signage; access to a broad selection of glucose testing supplies and OTC products; a quarterly newsletter for patients called Take Control: Diabetes; brochures and literature from suppliers; and other aids.

“Diabetic patients make two times more trips to the pharmacy each year [than other customers], spending an average of $2,500 [per household],” McKesson noted. “Annual retail pharmacy spend by diabetic households represents a more than 730 percent increase.

“A one-stop shop, the new Diabetes Life Center is designed to help your patients easily make choices about where to turn for diabetes information and product advice,” the company told its franchisees.

“In the short time that it’s been available, more than 15 percent of the Health Mart franchise has already fully implemented the Diabetes Life Center, with an average of 20 stores signing up per month,” explained McKesson spokeswoman Catherine Brew. “We fully expect continued strong adoption…across the Health Mart network.”

One key convert is pharmacist Tony Moye, owner/operator of seven Health Mart drug stores between Atlanta and Macon, Ga. Moye liked the Life Center concept when he saw it last summer, and decided to put it in his stores.

“Most anything you do, you’ve got to make a statement,” Moye told Drug Store News during an interview at his flagship drug store in this middle-Georgia town. “And it allowed us to say to our customers, ‘We know something about diabetes. And if you’ve got a problem with your feet cracking or something else…we know something about it, and we’ve got special products for diabetics, and there may be something else we can answer.’

Health Mart, he said, offers a variety of tools. Among them, he said, are “printed brochures they send us about different diabetic conditions, for the consumer,” not to mention expertise on how to group products. That includes anything from insulin test strips and glucose monitors to creams and ointments for dry skin.

“It’s not about price,” Moye said. “Customers may price you on their needles. But if their foot’s hurting, they don’t care what the cream costs. It’s not an item they price shop.

“If a diabetic needs a cough drop, they’re not going to go looking for the best price,” he went on. “They’re going to make sure they’re sugar-free. They need to know you’ve got the diabetic products they need. Diabetic patients, Moye added, know they need personalized service and plenty of product selection.

“Is a chain going to have time for that?” he demanded. “They look good on television. But how many chain pharmacists are going to have time to talk with you about this?”

Moye, who greets most of his customers by name and seems to display encyclopedic knowledge about their conditions, their families and their interests, is as likely as anyone else in the store to personally assist diabetic patients with questions or concerns. The payoff, he said, comes not only in long-term customer loyalty, it also comes through helping those patients manage their disease and live more fulfilling lives.

“They know there’s life if you manage diabetes properly,” he told Drug Store News.

It’s still too early, Moye said, to fully gauge the financial impact the Diabetes Life Centers are having on his seven Health Mart pharmacies.

“It’s been well received,” he said. “We’ve had what people wanted, and they’re still finding out about it.”

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Sturken to celebrate his fifth year at Spartan by ringing NASDAQ bell

BY Michael Johnsen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Spartan Stores’ chairman and chief executive officer Craig Sturken is slated to ring the NASDAQ opening bell on March 3 in celebration of his fifth anniversary leading Spartan, the company announced Thursday.

 “It is an honor to ring the opening NASDAQ bell in celebration of our fifth successful year since transforming into a consumer-centric organization and refocusing our business on our core distribution and retail operations,” Sturken stated. “We have been in the grocery business for more than 90 years and this is our eighth year as a public company, which is marked by our ability to develop and execute successful business strategies in a highly competitive market.”

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Unilever to reorganize company structure

BY Antoinette Alexander

LONDON Unilever, whose brands include Axe, Sunsilk and Dove, has announced that it is restructuring the company and combining its home and personal care segment and food segment into a single category structure.

Ralph Kugler, president of home and personal care, will step down in May at the Annual General Meetings after 29 years of service. The roles of president of home and personal care and president of foods will be merged under the leadership of Vindi Banga, currently president of foods.

To reflect the company’s focus on growth in developing markets, Central and Eastern Europe will be managed within an enlarged region comprised of Asia, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe. Western Europe will become a standalone region.

In other moves, Kees van der Graaf will retire in May from the Unilever board and from his role as president of Europe after a 32-year career with Unilever.

Harish Manwani, currently president of Asia/Africa, will lead the new expanded region. Doug Baillie will serve as president of Western Europe, having previously served as chief executive officer of Hindustan Unilever.

“These measures build naturally on the changes of recent years and give us an organizational structure even better placed to advance our growth agenda. At the same time, I want to express my deep appreciation to Kees and Ralph for the significant contribution they have made over long and distinguished years,” stated Patrick Cescau, group chief executive.

In addition, James Lawrence, currently chief financial officer, will be proposed in May for election as an executive director of Unilever. This change will mean that the Unilever board will be comprised of two executive directors and 11 non-executives.

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