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Joining grim list in retail retreat, Target to cut HQ workforce by 9%

BY Jim Frederick

MINNEAPOLIS Joining a grim and growing list of retailers announcing big cutbacks in staff, Target Corp. said Tuesday it will reduce its headquarters workforce by some 600 employees and eliminate another 400 open positions, mostly in the Twin Cities region.

In addition, Target said it would close its Little Rock, Ark. distribution center, which currently employs 500 people, later this year.

Headquarters employees affected by the cutbacks will continue to receive their full pay and benefits through April 1, Target revealed, “after which they will receive a comprehensive separation package based on their years of service.” As part of that package, Target also will provide these employees with 12 months of continued Target health care benefits in addition to 12 months COBRA benefit, and outplacement support to assist them in transitioning to their next position. Little Rock distribution center employees will be offered positions at other Target distribution centers, or will receive comparable severance. 

The cuts come in the wake of weaker-than-expected sales, which Target acknowledges are pressuring earnings performance. “Combined with the outlook for continued difficult economic conditions well into 2009, the company is taking a more conservative approach to business planning,” noted the big upscale discounter. 

The staff reductions underscore the severity of the economic downturn, and are in line with other big moves Target has made recently “to manage expense and capital investment and minimize the number of affected employees.” Among other actions, the nation’s second-largest discount mass merchandise chain — and its 11th largest pharmacy retailer — has also suspended salary increases for senior management and share repurchase activity, tightened its credit card underwriting and credit granting, launched new initiatives to improve store productivity, cut planned new store openings, and attacked other headquarters operating expenses. 

“We are clearly operating in an unprecedented economic environment that requires us to make some extremely difficult decisions to ensure Target remains competitive over the long-term,” said Gregg Steinhafel, Target president and CEO. 

Target predicts the cutbacks will result in a charge of approximately 3 cents per diluted share, the majority of which will occur in the company’s 2008 fourth quarter. Longer term, however, the company said the fiscal benefits of its actions “will exceed the charge.”

Target operates 1,682 stores in 48 states and 34 distribution centers, and employs approximately 350,000 people worldwide.

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Save Mart registers now incorporating healthcare purchases

BY Michael Johnsen

MODESTO, Calif. Save Mart Supermarkets last month updated all registers in stores with pharmacies to itemize eligible healthcare purchases under flexible spending account agreements, the chain announced.

Save Mart Supermarkets operates 115 pharmacies — 64 in Save Mart stores, 47 in Lucky stores and 4 in S-Mart Foods stores.

“The new FSA debit cards are a convenient way to monitor and pay for eligible medical expenses,” stated Michele Snider, senior director of pharmacy for Save Mart Supermarkets. “Patients who have FSAs for medical expenses should take full advantage of their benefits by accessing them before they expire for this calendar year, and our pharmacies now are ready to help them beat their year-end deadlines.” 

Save Mart Supermarkets operates nearly 250 stores throughout Northern California and  Northern Nevada under the Save Mart, S-Mart Foods, Lucky and FoodMaxx banners.

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Take Care coupons offered for popular flu season products

BY Antoinette Alexander

CONSHOCKEN, Pa. Amid the current economic turmoil, Take Care Health Systems is promoting its quality and cost-effective healthcare service this flu season through a Winter Promotional Program that runs through the end of March.

The program, which kicked off in January, is taking place at all 327 Take Care Clinics nationwide, the company announced on Tuesday. It coincides with the height of the cold, cough and flu season. Under the program, first-time visitors are eligible to receive a $50 coupon book redeemable for select Walgreens merchandise including cold medicine, facial tissue and hand sanitizer. 

“Consumers who seek care are looking more closely for ways to reduce the overall costs of treatment,” stated Sandy Ryan, chief nurse practitioner officer for Take Care Health Systems. “Many of those cost-conscious consumers are sacrificing quality or a satisfying patient experience.” 

Citing a survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Take Care stated that 22% of consumers said that the ailing economy was causing them to see the doctor less. In an effort to save money, about 11% said they?ve scaled back on prescription drugs or reduced the dosage of those drugs to make them last longer. 

“With an increasing number of families and individuals in America forced to make tough choices when it comes to spending, health care should not be something that suffers,” stated Peter Miller, president and CEO of Take Care Health Systems. “Now more than ever, the care offered at Take Care Clinics is an excellent option for patients as they look to save on cost, without having to compromise the quality of their health or the care they receive.” 

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