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NRF survey: Back-to-school shopping halfway complete for average family

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON Though school bells in some areas of the country already have started to ring, most parents have a lot of shopping left to get kids ready for the first day of school.

According to the National Retail Federation’s latest Back-to-School/College Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, conducted by BIGresearch, the average American family had completed only 41.6% of their back-to-school shopping as of Aug. 11. Similarly, families of college students have completed 41% of their shopping. In addition, nearly one-third (30.5%) of families with school-aged children (K-12) haven’t even started their shopping.

According to NRF’s annual Back-to-School and Back-to-College surveys released in July, total back-to-school and back-to-college spending will reach $47.5 billion this year. According to the survey, families of students in grades K-12 will spend $548.72 on school merchandise, a decline of 7.7% from $594.24 in 2008. Families of college students will spend $618.12, up slightly from last year’s $599.38.

Meanwhile, those who have already begun their shopping said sales or coupons have influenced nearly half (47.8%) of purchases so far this season. And with everything taking a back seat to price this year, shoppers are keeping their eyes open for any and all special savings. According to the survey, 43.4 percent of back-to-school shoppers said coupons influenced them to shop at a particular store. Advertising inserts (42.1%), newspapers (32.2%), in-store promotions (32.1%), word of mouth (29.9%) and direct mail (16.2%) were also strong influencers in their decision on where to shop.

“Price is an important factor when it comes to back to school shopping, but there are other aspects to consider,” said Mike Gatti, executive director of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, a division of NRF. “Unique and creative marketing campaigns coupled with the right prices will be the key to driving sales as the summer comes to a close.”

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Drug Store News launches new magazine

BY Alaric DeArment

BOSTON An estimated 100 people gathered last Monday for the official launch of the latest member of The Drug Store News Group of publications.

Armada is a specialty pharmacy channel management organizationThe attendees, including some curious representatives of retail pharmacy chains, crowded into the Stone Room at the Westin Boston Waterfront for a reception to introduce Specialty Pharmacy magazine, which Drug Store News began printing under a partnership with specialty pharmacy channel management organization Armada Health Care.

“When people outside of the business ask me what specialty pharmacy is, I try to keep the answer as simple as possible: I tell them it’s about patients with complex, chronic conditions; I tell them it’s about extremely complex, high-cost drugs,” Drug Store News editor-in-chief Rob Eder said in a speech at the reception. “And because of that, every single touch point of the operation, from managing the network, the utilization management, formulary management, sourcing the drugs, the buy and bill, the benefit design, the dispensing and fulfillment, the claims adjudication, etc. — all of it is more complex. So, that is our mission: to make a very complex business easier for the people who make their living in that business.”

Associate publisher Wayne Bennett noted the drug-development environment that has helped contribute to the rapid growth of specialty pharmacy.

“Our new publication, Specialty Pharmacy, will add to the broad portfolio of pharmacy publications published by the Drug Store News Group,” Bennett said. “As three-quarters of all new drugs currently in the drug development pipeline are biotech products, and the market for these products will grow by $40 billion in just a few short years, Specialty Pharmacy will be the voice for all stakeholders in this rapidly growing area of pharmacy care. We will also be collaborating with Armada Health Care, who has led in providing innovative solutions to make the specialty pharmacy market work more efficiently.”

Specialty products — most of them biotech drugs — have experienced rapid growth lately, generating just under $60 billion in U.S. sales last year, Specialty Pharmacy reported in its inaugural issue, and growing by 8.8% year-over-year, compared to 4.4% for traditional drugs. Meanwhile, two specialty pharmacies — Swartz Creek, Mich.-based Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Commcare Pharmacy — made Inc. magazine’s list of the top 500 fastest-growing private companies in the country for 2009.

“My colleagues and I are very enthusiastic about our collaboration with Drug?Store News to launch Specialty Pharmacy magazine. We are confident that this publication will become the media voice for this emerging segment of health care, while fostering a better understanding of the value proposition that specialty pharmacies offer to such key stakeholders as Pharma/Biotech, payers, prescribers and most importantly patients,” said Lawrence S. Irene, RPh, CEO Armada Health Care.

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Warning label updated for immunosuppressant drug CellCept

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKVILLE, Md. Reports of a type of anemia have prompted changes to the warning label of a drug used to prevent the immune system from rejecting transplanted organs.

The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that patients using CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil) had reported cases of pure red cell aplasia, which causes selective reduction of red blood cell precursors in the bone marrow. Patients with PRCA may experience fatigue, lethargy and pale skin.

Swiss drug maker Roche manufactures CellCept, and several generic drug companies make their own versions.

In July, the FDA required changes to the labeling of several immunosuppressant drugs, including CellCept, following reports of opportunistic viral infections among patients using them.

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