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PlasticVault provides gift card haven

BY Doug Desjardins

FRESNO, Calif. Plastic Jungle, a Web site for gift card services, is launching a service called PlasticVault to help retailers connect with gift-card holders and allow them to register and secure cards.

The service provides retailers with information on gift cardholders, including buying histories and gift card purchase patterns, to help increase gift card redemption and use. The service also provides a secure site for card owners to register and store cards while not in use.

 “By providing the only dedicated third party gift card registry, PlasticVault offers targeted marketing unlike anything else in the industry and combines that with innovative programs and partnerships,” said Plastic Jungle chief executive officer Tina Henson.

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New NYC CVS flagship highlights Project Life

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK —CVS recently opened the doors to its new flagship Manhattan store that incorporates many of the elements of its Project Life design and features a large beauty department and skin care center.

The 24-hour store is located at 42nd Street and 3rd Avenue, just a stone’s throw away from a Duane Reade store that sits on the corner of 43rd and 3rd streets.

While other CVS locations in Manhattan incorporate some elements of the company’s Project Life design, this new location is by far the largest to do so—featuring 12,000 square feet of retail space—quite large by New York City’s standards. CVS currently has more than 30 stores in the borough of Manhattan.

The pharmacy is located at the rear of the store. According to a company spokesperson, it is set up to house a MinuteClinic in-store health clinic. However, as of press time, a clinic was not in operation nor was there any signage indicating when an opening would take place. It would mark the first MinuteClinic in Manhattan.

Developed with the idea that women are the company’s core shopper, the Project Life format includes such elements as lower gondolas and wider aisles to make it easier to shop, and these elements are clearly evident in this new flagship location.

Upon entering the store—which is in a prime traffic area as it sits near Grand Central Station—shoppers are immediately greeted by a digital photo area on their left and a staffed Healthy Skincare Center, a European-style high-end beauty boutique, on their right, just past the grocery-style checkout and self-checkout lanes.

The large beauty department, which is called out by the turquoise-colored overhead and shelf signage, also includes the Boots brand and an endcap featuring the retailer’s new exclusive 24.7 Skincare line. The 24.7 collection, which became available nationwide in December, includes a targeted wrinkle treatment for $39.99; firming anti-aging eye serum for $29.99; smoothing anti-aging moisturizer for $29.99; daily purifying facial scrub for $15.99; and instant plump volumizing lip shine for $19.99.

The retailer also is clearly highlighting Lumene, the cosmetic and skin care brand from Finland, as there is a large, illuminated display adjacent to the brightly lit Healthy Skincare Center. Also illuminated is the skin care aisle.

In typical CVS fashion, the store is easy to shop as each department is color-coded and highlighted with signage that pops from the shelf and hangs overhead. In addition to the beauty department’s turquoise signage; the household area features dark blue-colored signage; the health department is green; the food and beverage department is pink; and the digital photo area is called out by orange signage.

The store, which has light-colored hardwood flooring around the perimeter that encases blue carpeting covering the center of the floor, also features a “coupon center” where shoppers can scan their ExtraCare loyalty card to see what savings are available.

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AMP injunction an 11th-hour victory for Rx

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, VA. —On the critical issue of Medicaid prescription reimbursements, the drug store industry faces the New Year with a little breathing room.

In a dramatic, 11th-hour turn of events, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth handed at least a partial victory Dec. 14 to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association. Acting on a lawsuit filed in November by the two groups, Lamberth agreed to halt temporarily the government’s plan to impose steep Medicaid reimbursement reductions on community pharmacies.

Besides issuing an injunction just seven weeks before the new reimbursement plan was to take effect, Lamberth also ruled that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would not be permitted to post data on the Internet related to the average manufacturer price of generic pharmaceuticals.

With CMS’ new AMP-based payment plan for generics dispensed under Medicaid set to take effect Jan. 30, Lamberth’s decision was a welcome Christmas present for a beleaguered industry. Retail pharmacy operators have long asserted that the new generic reimbursement schedule would devastate many community pharmacies serving large Medicaid populations, by tying claims payments to a faulty and inaccurate formula for deriving the true acquisition cost of a generic drug.

Independents would be particularly hard-hit, NCPAnoted, with many forced many to either stop serving Medicaid patients or go out of business.

In response, NACDS and NCPA—along with many of their individual chain or independent pharmacy members—have waged a protracted battle in Congress, at the grassroots local level and within the Bush administration to scrap the plan and come up with a more equitable method of payment. In a final desperate bid to halt the new rule, the two groups filed suit Nov. 7 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Department of Health and Human Services and CMS. Also named in their official capacities were HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt and CMS acting administrator Kerry Weems.

Lamberth’s injunction that will prevent CMS from adopting the reduced AMP-based reimbursement formula for generics until he’s had an opportunity to fully review the new payment plan, and the merits of the suit.

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