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Meijer makes debut in Wisconsin

BY Michael Johnsen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A little more than two years after announcing it was considering expansion into Wisconsin, Meijer has confirmed the opening date for its first two supercenters. Meijer will open its Grafton and Kenosha stores on June 23, co-chairman Hank Meijer reported Monday. 
 
"We're extremely eager to finally open our doors to Wisconsin," Meijer said. "We've been telling southeastern Wisconsin residents for months that they will love our fresh grocery options, wide selection of general merchandise and overall value. Now we're excited to prove it as we open our first two stores in Grafton and Kenosha, with more to come later this summer."
 
Meijer leadership and local dignitaries will dedicate the first day of business with a ribbon cutting ceremony at each store. As part of its grand opening celebration, the retailer will feature special promotions and events beginning on June 25. The Grafton and Kenosha supercenters are the first of four that will open this year in southeastern Wisconsin, with locations in Oak Creek and Wauwatosa on track to open in August.
 
The retailer now has 215 stores throughout the Midwest. The new supercenters will feature fresh produce, meat and dairy delivered seven days a week, and a bakery offering fresh bread baked four times daily. As Meijer stores are open 24 hours a day, customers will have access to these offerings around the clock.
 
The stores will also feature a pharmacy offering the company’s free prescription program, which includes leading oral generic antibiotics with a special focus on prescriptions most often filled for children, prenatal vitamins and medications for those with diabetes and high cholesterol.
 
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Walmart’s efforts to boost store experience lead to sales slump

BY Mike Troy

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Declining gas prices helped U.S. same-store sales at Walmart Stores, but the negative impact of foreign currency exchange and efforts to improve store experience and employee wages dampened total sales and operating profits.
 
Total company sales declined 0.1% to $114.8 billion, but increased 2.7% to 118.1 billion if the negative effect of currency exchange rates are excluded from the calculation. Net income declined 7% to $3.34 billion during the quarter ended April 30. Earnings per share of $1.03, although within the company’s guidance range of 95 cents to $1.10 were below the prior year’s level of $1.10.
 
In addition to the foreign exchange effect that the company said was greater than it expected, incremental investments in e-commerce dinged profits by another two cents as did investments in employee training and compensation announced earlier this year.
 
Sales at the U.S. stores division increased 3.5% to $70.2 billion, but operating profits declined 6.8% to $4.6 billion as Walmart invested in employee wages and added labor to stores as part of a broader effort to improve the shopping experience.
 
In April the company increased its minimum hourly wage to $9 and also put 8,000 department managers back on the sales floor.
 
“These department managers will have responsibility for a smaller area of the store ensuring that they have the knowledge and the time to engage with both the customers and store associates driving an overall better experience,” said Walmart U.S. president and CEO Greg Foran.
 
Foran added that U.S. comp sales growth was driven by a 1% increase in traffic as customer benefitted from lower gas prices and responded favorably to some of new assortments for spring and summer.
 
“All formats had positive comps for the quarter, including our traditional-format Neighborhood Markets, which posted approximately a 7.9% comp. A focus on customer service and in-stock position drove strong traffic in this format,” Foran said. “Customers continue to see the benefit of Neighborhood Markets to meet their everyday needs, including convenient access to services such as drive-thru pharmacies and fuel stations.”
 
Sam’s Club also had a challenging quarter with a lower than expected 0.4% same store sales increase and worse than expected profits. Operating profits declined 10.9% to $427 million even though membership increased 7%. In a vote of confidence, Walmart Stores president and CEO Doug McMillon said recently launched new services have promise for improved member acquisition and retention, and investments in Club Pick-up and e-commerce are starting to pay off.
 
“However, we need more consistent progress, and I’m confident that the strategic plan the Sam’s Club team is working on will lead to longer-term improvements in our club business,” McMillon said.
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Walgreens to provide Hep-C screenings in 12 markets

BY Michael Johnsen

CLARK, N.J. — The Chronic Liver Disease Foundation announced Tuesday that it's collaborating with Walgreens to offer free Hepatitis C (HCV) testing with the OraQuick HCV Rapid Test at more than 60 Walgreens retail pharmacies in 12 major cities throughout the country.
 
The program, which is slated to launch this August and run through January 2016, will offer free rapid HCV testing on specific days and times each week to patients at risk for HCV. Rapid testing and patient education will be conducted by trained healthcare professionals on site at each retail location and individuals who test positive will be linked directly to one of CLDF's 75 Hepatology Centers of Expertise throughout the United States. 
 
"The rapid hepatitis testing program demonstrates our commitment to helping patients access important information that can help to improve their health," said Glen Pietrandoni, senior director, virology, Walgreens. "We are proud to collaborate with the Chronic Liver Disease Foundation on this initiative. Through this testing program we can help people become educated on the risk factors, identify people infected with HCV and help them get linked to appropriate care."
 
"Today, approximately 5.2 million Americans have hepatitis C and the vast majority does not know it," said Willis Maddrey, president of the Chronic Liver Disease Foundation. "However, new therapies are now available that can effectively treat and cure hepatitis C.
 
Each year, about 17,000 Americans become infected with Hepatitis C. Up to 75% of people with chronic Hepatitis C infection were born during 1945-1965, and up to three out of four people infected with Hepatitis C are unaware of their infection.
 
OraQuick HCV is the first and only FDA-approved and CLIA-waived point of care test for detection of HCV infection in at-risk individuals. The platform allows healthcare providers to deliver an accurate diagnosis in 20 minutes, using venipuncture or fingerstick blood. The test is manufactured by OraSure Technologies in Bethlehem, Pa.
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