Meijer disputes belief that nothing is free
The Midwest is known for flat landscapes and fertile farm fields stretching to the horizon, but it also is home to one of the country’s oldest and most successful mass merchandise chains — one with a long history of strong emphasis on pharmacy programs.
Where a growing number of chains have adopted generic discount programs, Meijer has taken to giving many drugs away for free. The list of medications that customers can obtain at no charge now includes metformin for Type 2 diabetes, prenatal vitamins and most antibiotics.
The chain also offers a variety of screenings for diabetes, cholesterol, liver function and blood pressure, as well as programs for combating obesity, such as body mass index and weight management information and education. Immunizations offered include seasonal flu, pneumococcal and shingles vaccines, all available on a walk-up basis.
The company, which currently has 195 stores, plans to open two more in the fall and has been expanding in Chicago with small-format stores of 90,000 sq. ft. that are focused on grocery and pharmacy.
H-E-B adding clinics, new Rx services
“After all, we’re from around here, too.” That message, delivered to millions of Texas consumers via the pharmacy page on H-E-B’s heavily scanned website, lies at the heart of the San Antonio-based supermarket chain’s seemingly unshakeable grip on both customers and patients in the Lone Star State. The H.E. Butt Grocery Co. maintains high marks for customer loyalty, innovative patient care services, a quality shopping experience and plenty of healthy choices in its food aisles.
H-E-B pharmacists now provide health screenings for blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol every second Saturday of the month from March through October, as well as quarterly A1C exams for patients with diabetes. Those patients also are eligible for a free InControl No Coding starter kit when they fill their first script for a diabetes medication.
H-E-B also builds loyalty with its Rx Rewards Platinum card. For a $5 enrollment fee, the card provides discounts on some 500 generic drugs, vaccinations and pet medicines, as well as free health screenings and free prenatal vitamins. Last summer, the company also extended its reach electronically with the launch of an improved website for prescription renewals and a new link with customers’ mobile phones.
To ward off disease, the company’s pharmacies and clinicians now offer periodic immunizations, not only for flu but also for hepatitis A and B, HPV/cervical cancer, measles, meningitis, pneumonia, shingles and tetanus. That appeal to disease prevention has permeated the food aisles as well; H-E-B promotes healthier nutritional choices with programs like its Fully Fit branding program, which identifies healthy foods throughout the store, and the H-E-Buddy campaign, designed to educate kids about healthier foods and snacks.
In partnership with RediClinic, H-E-B aggressively is expanding its network of in-store clinics. RediClinic revealed last fall it will open another 20 clinics in H-E-B stores this year, nearly doubling its presence within the Texas chain, with a focus on the Austin, Houston and San Antonio regions.
Raley’s continues focus on patient care
Like most retailers in California, combo-store pioneer Raley’s Supermarkets has been in a slow growth mode since the recession began in 2008. “We still have 105 pharmacies, so not a lot has changed in the past few years,” said John Segale, a spokesman for the Sacramento-based chain.
That’s the same number Raley’s had in 2008 when the recession began. Since then, Raley’s has added four supermarkets, raising its total store count from 129 to 133 that operate under four banners, comprising Raley’s (85), Bel-Air (22), Nob Hill (21) and Food Source (5). Food Source is a warehouse-format chain it launched in 1994, while Bel-Air and Nob Hill are small chains it acquired in the 1990s.
Though the pharmacy division hasn’t added new stores, it’s continued to build an already strong slate of educational events, health screenings and special programs for customers. Raley’s newest program is called Pharmacist Care for Diabetes, which was launched in late 2010 with the University of California-San Francisco, insurer Blue Shield and members of the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS. Under the program, CalPERs members who have diabetes and fill their scripts at Raley’s can have a one-on-one meeting with their pharmacists to develop programs to better manage their blood-sugar levels.
“Through this unique partnership, more patients living with diabetes can receive enhanced support from their pharmacist,” said Raley’s VP pharmacy and healthy lifestyles Flint Pendergraft.
Raley’s also recently launched its ReadyFill program, which notifies customers by phone or email when a script refill is ready for pickup. And its pharmacies offer vaccines for more than a half-dozen diseases.