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L’Oréal USA unveils 2014 NEXT Generation Award winners

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK — L'Oréal USA Women in Digital, a program that recruits, supports and promotes female entrepreneurs in technology, has announced the three new companies that have been selected as winners of its 2014 NEXT Generation Awards.

The winners — GLAMSQUAD, Jibo and Shareablee — were honored Thursday evening at an event in New York City hosted by athlete, fashion pioneer, actress and L'Oreal Paris spokeswoman Aimee Mullins, to celebrate both established and up-and-coming female leaders in technology.

"Each year we build upon the successes of years past, finding new ways to enhance the program and expand the reach and resources we provide to female entrepreneurs," stated Rachel Weiss, VP of digital innovation at L'Oréal USA and chair of L'Oréal USA Women in Digital. "This year's winners are among the best and brightest women in technology, with forward-thinking products that have the power to transform the way consumers interact with the beauty industry."

The L'Oréal USA Women in Digital NEXT Generation Awards are given to three female-founded companies considered game-changers in the technology space that have created innovative business solutions that underscore the needs of the modern day connected consumer. The winners were selected by L'Oréal executives, partners and an advisory board of female leaders in technology that include Arianna Huffington, chair, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group; Joanne Bradford, head of partnerships at Pinterest; Alexia Tsotsis, co-editor of TechCrunch; and Padmasree Warrior, chief technology and strategy officer of Cisco Systems.

Once selected to join the Women in Digital program, the winners are provided with the opportunity to launch and scale new technologies with L'Oréal brands. In partnership with L'Oréal's NEXT fund, a program to foster go-to-market experimentation across L'Oréal USA, L'Oréal brands will compete internally for the opportunity to work with these top entrepreneurs on their coveted pilots.

As a way to provide mentorship and act as a springboard for these young companies to launch and grow, L'Oréal also grants these entrepreneurs with access to its advisory board, network of venture capitalists and top executives.

2014 NEXT GENERATION AWARD WINNERS:

GLAMSQUAD – Victoria Eisner, co-founder and chief creative officer: GLAMSQUAD is an app-based beauty provider that delivers professional beauty services to the home or office in as little as an hour's notice.
Jibo – Cynthia Breazeal, founder: Created by Breazeal, a pioneer of social robotics and human robot interaction from the MIT Media Lab, Jibo is the world's first family robot that brings intelligence and helpfulness with heart to the connected home.
Shareablee – Tania Yuki, founder and CEO: Launched in 2013, Shareablee is an authority on audience intelligence, competitive benchmarking and actionable insights for social media. The official social media analytics partner of comScore, Shareablee measures a census of global properties and collects brand audience and engagement data across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest.

As part of this year's Women in Digital program, L'Oréal is offering one full scholarship, valued at $15,000, for a woman to learn to code at Hackbright Academy in San Francisco. The first software engineering school created exclusively for women, Hackbright Academy is committed to providing students with a practical skill set and connecting them with the industry relationships they need to succeed. The L'Oréal scholarship recipient will be selected from a class of 40 students admitted to the program for the winter 2015 term.

"As the world's largest beauty company, L'Oréal has the opportunity to put women at the center of our innovation efforts, driving female entrepreneurs to innovate and push the boundaries of knowledge to become leaders in the digital arena," added Weiss.  "As our Women in Digital program continues to grow, so will its reach and ability to shift society's mindset around women in technology."

Previous NEXT Generation Award winners and honorees include: Heather Marie of Shoppable, whose patent-pending proprietary technology allows digital media sites and mobile applications to sell third party products using a universal checkout, is now developing an ecommerce platform across all of L'Oréal's brands;  Melody McCloskey of StyleSeat, whose online marketplace for stylists and beauty professionals to connect with clients has already raised $14 million in funding , recently partnered with L'Oréal's Professional Product division to bring their entire network of salon owners and stylists on board; and Kelsey Falter of Poptip piloted her social media data analysis technology with L'Oréal and quickly signed on brands among the likes of Yoplait, NFL, Spotify and Budweiser, before being acquired by Palantir, a big data company that's valued at $9 billion.
 

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A&P refinances credit facilities, looks to ‘accelerate growth strategies’

BY Antoinette Alexander

MONTVALE, N.J. — A&P has completed the refinancing of its existing senior debt, which it says will enable the company to further invest in the business and ramp up growth strategies.

A&P has partnered with Wells Fargo Capital Finance to arrange the new $300 million senior secured ABL facility and $270 million senior secured term loan through an amendment and restatement of its existing credit agreements.

According to A&P, its enhanced capital structure is the latest indication of the company’s improved business fundamentals, and follows the upgraded ratings outlooks issued by each of Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s earlier this year. The new covenant-free debt arrangement provides for a significant reduction in interest expense and enhanced liquidity.

“We are extremely pleased to have completed the refinancing of our credit facilities on attractive terms that reduce our borrowing costs and provide greater operational and financial flexibility. Our new senior debt puts the company in a much stronger financial position and allows us to focus on investing in our business by supporting and accelerating our growth strategies,” stated Paul Hertz, president and CEO.
 

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Superior front-end experience, improved patient outcomes will define Rite Aid’s success

BY Michael Johnsen

 

Revising year-end guidance on account of reimbursement rate headwinds, Rite Aid's stock took a hit after reporting second-quarter earnings, even though the company beat analysts' consensus estimates for the quarter. The retail pharmacy operation recorded second-quarter profit of $127.8 million, or 13 cents per share, more than doubling the FactSet consensus analyst estimate of 6 cents a share, according to a MarketWatch report. And while revenue of $6.5 billion was in line with analyst expectations, Rite Aid topped expected same-store sales growth of 3.3% by recording 4.1% in same-store sales growth. 
 
Rite Aid is still on the right track. 
 
Rite Aid's Wellness store format has reached the 1,433 store mark, comprising 31% of the chain. It's a significant front-end same-store sales booster. "For the second quarter, front-end, same-store sales in our Wellness stores were approximately 250 basis points higher than our non-Wellness stores, and script growth was 85 basis points higher," reported Darren Karst, Rite Aid EVP and CFO, during the second quarter conference call. 
 
"Our Wellness store program is perhaps the most visible component of our ongoing transformation and these stores continued to deliver strong results in the second quarter, once again outperforming the rest of the chain in terms of same-store front-end sales and script count," Ken Martindale, Rite Aid president and COO, told analysts during the second-quarter conference call. "We remain highly focused on leveraging our Wellness store program to launch innovative merchandising concepts that significantly enhance the shopping experience," he said. "A great example is our new OTC presentation. This unique research-based consumer solution was developed and tested in conjunction with several key suppliers during the past year. The new design makes shopping navigation much easier and incorporates consumer education and product cross-selling to deliver a much better customer experience."
 
That's one of the chief reasons Rite Aid's Wellness store format works — it is predicated on the consumer experience. "As we continue to spend more time with the customers and our associates, listening to the needs that our customers have, we are continuing to evolve [the Wellness store format]," Martindale told DSN in an exclusive store tour of their new Beverly Hills, Calif. location opened earlier this summer. Rite Aid's Wellness format features Wellness Ambassadors in the OTC aisles and beauty advisors in the beauty department. And Rite Aid is piloting its Fresh Day Cafe offering at that particular location, extending its consumer experience to gourmet coffees and Thrifty White ice cream.  
 
Differentiating the in-store experience will be the key to front-end success going forward. That is fast becoming the reality of brick-and-mortar retailing. "There are experiences within traditional retail that are going to have to be different," commented Brett Goffin, industry head of retail at Google, during an exclusive one-day summit co-hosted by Mack Elevation Forum and Drug Store News. "The value proposition to the end user has to bear out, so you have to ask what is the value proposition of the customer coming into the store?" he asked. "If it’s just, you have a wide selection. That’s somewhat of a challenge because the wider selection is actually somewhere else. But if it’s we have category expertise … people aren’t necessarily experts, they do need category expertise, they do need positive great experiences, something that you can’t get [online]."
 
And that is what Rite Aid is delivering with its Wellness format. It's not just a streamlined, more natural look and feel that the format conveys to the consumer, it's the expertise in the beauty department, in the OTC aisle and behind the pharmacy bench that the consumer can take advantage of. And it's the fun experiences to be had with initiatives like Fresh Day Cafe. 
 
Beyond Rite Aid's Wellness store format, Rite Aid has a new offering that will help drive foot traffic and generate another revenue stream in its own right that hasn't really been put into play yet but will be very soon: the Rite Aid Rediclinic.

"We're tracking right on target and we are going to start opening them in several months. So you are going to see them aggressively rolling out and we are very excited about the opportunity that lies ahead of us here," Martindale told analysts during that second-quarter conference call. That additional foot traffic not only gives Rite Aid the opportunity to showcase their superior front-end offering, but also generates incremental prescription business. 

 
And Rite Aid's Rediclinic offering will only augment Rite Aid's Health Alliance proposition. The Rite Aid Health Alliance employs a team approach with pharmacists, physicians and specially-trained in-store health coaches — all endeavoring to help patients with polychronic and chronic conditions meet certain health-related goals central to improving outcomes. Rite Aid most recently signed a sixth partnership under its Health Alliance umbrella with Physician Direct ACO of Detroit. 
 
The combination of Rite Aid's Rediclinics and Health Alliance partnerships positions Rite Aid well in improving health outcomes. And improving health outcomes will be the name of the pharmacy game going forward. "At the end of the day we do bring value to the equation in terms of what we do," John Standley, Rite Aid chairman and CEO, told analysts. "We are increasing that value every day with the various initiatives that we are working on in terms of things we're doing for chronic care and polychronic care," he said. "Ultimately, I think the marketplace will recognize us for the value that we bring in patient care. That's not something that's going to happen overnight [but] from a strategic perspective over time, that's where the real value in this relationship [with PBMs] is created."
 
Rite Aid is still on the right track toward future success. The Pennsylvania chain is leading with a strong front-end engine defined by a superior consumer experience and bringing up the rear with a pharmacy/retail clinic operation that will measure its success in improved patient outcomes. 

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