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Longs Drug March sales rise

BY Doug Desjardins

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. Longs Drug posted an increase in same-store sales in March helped by the early arrival of Easter.

In a near reversal of past trends, Longs same-store sales jumped 2.8 percent for the month on the strength of front-end sales, which rose 5.7 percent due to Easter shoppers. Easter arrived on March 23 compared to April 8 in 2007.

Pharmacy sales rose only 0.1 percent for the month, due to the ongoing influx of generic drugs and a mild flu season in California. Total sales for March were $474 million, a 4.7 percent increase from last year.

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Walgreens promotes Rosenbluth, Hans

BY Jim Wright

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens announced Wednesday that it has named Hal F. Rosenbluth a corporate vice president and Rick J. Hans a divisional vice president of investor relations and finance.

Rosenbluth, 56, president of Walgreens Health and Wellness division, is the co-founder and chairman of Take Care Health Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary acquired by Walgreens in 2007. Take Care Health Systems manages 154 convenient care clinics located inside Walgreens drug stores and plans to have more than 400 clinics in operation by the end of 2008. At the clinics, nurse practitioners and physician assistants focus exclusively on the diagnosis and treatment of common family illnesses, vaccinations, physicals and screenings.

Walgreens Health and Wellness division was formed last month as part of Walgreens announced acquisitions of two leading operators of worksite health centers, I-trax, Inc. (AMEX: DMX) of Chadds Ford, Penn., parent company of CHD Meridian Healthcare, LLC, and privately held Whole Health Management of Cleveland. Upon closing of the transactions, Walgreens will have more than 500 worksite and retail health centers in 40 states, including its Take Care Health Clinics. Walgreens estimates the current potential market for worksite health centers and pharmacies includes more than 7,600 corporate campuses of 1,000 employees or more. 

Rosenbluth has 29 years of experience in the business-to-business sector as founder of Rosenbluth International a global travel management company. Through a series of acquisitions, he built RI into a $3 billion business with 4,300 employees operating in 15 countries before selling the company to American Express in 2003. The following year, he co-founded Take Care Health Systems, which opened its first convenient care clinic in November 2005.

Hans, 52, who has been serving as director of finance, also is an assistant treasurer for Walgreens and a chartered financial analyst, oversees investor relations, financial analysis, financial services, banking and employee stock plans.

Rick has developed excellent relationships with Wall Street analysts and represents us well to the financial community across the country,” Rein said.

Hans joined Walgreens in 1987 as a financial analyst after completing an M.B.A. at the University of Notre Dame. He also earned a B.S. in geology from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in materials science and engineering from the University of Texas. From 1990 through 1999, Hans was a manager and senior manager in Walgreens real estate department. He was named director of finance in 1999.

Hans joined Walgreens in 1987 as a financial analyst after completing an M.B.A. at the University of Notre Dame. He also earned a B.S. in geology from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in materials science and engineering from the University of Texas. From 1990 through 1999, Hans was a manager and senior manager in Walgreens real estate department. He was named director of finance in 1999.

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Fred’s reports sales increase

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Fred’s on Thursday reported sales of $178.3 million, up 4 percent, for the five-week fiscal month of March ending April 5.

Comparable store-sales for the month increased 1.2 percent versus 4.4 percent in the same period last year. Excluding the 75 stores and 22 pharmacies that have been or will be closed under the company’s previously announced strategic plan to improve company performance, comparable store sales for the month would have been 1.7 percent, Fred’s reported.

“While the retail and economic environment remains skittish, putting pressure on our gross margin in the short term, our earnings outlook for the first quarter has not changed and we remain confident about the long-term benefits of our strategic plan,” commented Michael Hayes, Fred’s chief executive officer. “With implementation of the longer-term aspects of the plan now under way, we began closing our underperforming stores and pharmacies this month.”

During March, Fred’s opened two stores and one new pharmacy. The company expects to open a total of 18 stores and 15 pharmacies in 2008. Fred’s also closed eight stores and seven pharmacies during March. The company expects to close 75 underperforming stores and 22 underperforming pharmacies during the year.

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