PHARMACY

Improving the shopper experience

BY Michael Johnsen

Weis Markets earlier this year named longtime pharmacy veteran Rick Bhandari — who has helped manage pharmacy for Bi-Lo Holdings, CVS Health and Rite Aid over the course of his career — as director pharmacy operations. He’s assuming the day-to-day responsibilities for a burgeoning pharmacy business — Weis’ comparable pharmacy sales increased 8.5% in 2014 compared with 2013, according to Weis’ 2014 annual report, and this is following a year in which same-store pharmacy sales were down 2.2%.

(Click here to view the full report.)

A lot of that can be attributed to more patients filling prescriptions, the company said. In addition to picking up more patients across its pharmacy operations, Weis has successfully implemented in-store pet medication, emphasized a continued focus on immunization and implemented a successful medication synchronization program to help drive the back-bench business. “Also contributing to the increase are some of the company’s stores having expanded pharmacy hours,” the company stated in its 10-K.

The grocer is looking to build on its 2014 success with a continued focus on value and customer experience. “Over the past year, we steadily invested in our pricing programs and successfully executed our strategy, which has produced consistent sales increases in key center store and fresh departments,” said Jonathan Weis, Weis Markets’ president and CEO, regarding the company’s year-end results. “We also improved our in-store customer experience and increased our customer service focus. As a result of our investments and customer service programs, we are well-positioned to build on our success in 2015.”

As one example of their drive to improve the shopper experience, Weis launched an online shopping service with in-store pickup through 20 locations earlier this year. “Weis Online Shopping works particularly well for customers who don’t have the time or ability to shop, including double-income households, families with small children and customers with mobility issues,” said Kurt Schertle, Weis Markets’ COO.

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PHARMACY

Promotional push on new services

BY Barbara White-Sax

Discount Drug Mart made two key acquisitions last year that strengthened the chain’s position as a locally owned, full-service specialty pharmacy chain that can meet an array of consumer health needs.

(Click here to view the full report.)

Its acquisition of Hastings, a professional medical equipment supplier, allowed the chain to increase its selection of durable medical equipment and offer new services to its customers. “Many of these items are for customers who have recently been in the hospital and are still in need of some of the assistance provided there. Our customers are now able to visit our stores and speak to a home health care specialist to order the products they need, from hospital beds to oxygen tanks,” said Amanda Akin, marketing specialist at the chain. “Hastings will deliver the equipment to their homes and set it up. The acquisition helps Discount Drug Mart be a one-stop shop for consumers.”

The chain also acquired Gentry Health Services specialty pharmacy service. The acquisition allows the chain to provide specialty prescriptions to its customers chainwide, particularly to patients with AIDS and cancer.

Discount Drug Mart is focused on promoting the new services through in-store signage, promotional mailers, and circular and television, radio and digital media ads. “We like to advertise ourselves as the ‘hometown pharmacy,’ focusing on the idea that we don’t have large stores, and customers don’t have to park too far away from the front door,” said Akin. “We stress convenience for older generations and parents with young children.”

The company continued to emphasize its immunization program, which includes flu, shingles, pneumonia and other vaccines. The chain also focused on expanding its Pets Meds program, which offers pet medications often below veterinarian prices.

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Joining the regional chain power list

BY Jim Frederick

Welcome to the big leagues, Haggen Food & Pharmacy.

(Click here to view the full report.)

In a transformative and bold stroke, the owners of Bellingham, Wash.-based Haggen Inc. bought a big chunk of former Albertsons and Safeway stores in the western United States early this year, vastly expanding the chain’s size and reach. The buyout also vaulted the company into the ranks of top U.S. pharmacy retailers for the first time in its 82-year history.

Haggen’s aggressive expansion was triggered by the Albertsons and Safeway merger, and a ruling by the Federal Trade Commission that the two companies shed a significant number of stores to complete the merger. As part of the divestment process, Haggen is buying and converting 146 of those stores operating under the Albertsons, Safeway, Pavilions and Vons brands.

“With this acquisition, Haggen will expand from 18 stores with 16 pharmacies to 164 stores with 106 pharmacies; from 2,000 employees to more than 10,000 employees; and from a Pacific Northwest company with locations in Oregon and Washington to a major regional grocery chain with locations in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona,” Haggen reported on Feb. 11.

Haggen chairman John Caple called the deal a “momentous acquisition” and “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rapidly expand the Haggen brand across the West Coast.”

The takeover and store conversion process will be complete by mid-2015. “Each week, between one and 12 stores will be converted,” Haggen spokeswoman Deborah Pleva reported.

“We’re excited about the changes we’re making to enhance these stores with more locally sourced food offerings, genuine service and homemade quality,” said Bill Shaner, CEO of Haggen’s new Pacific Southwest division.

Other services include wine tastings and nutritional education programs.

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