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Ralphs, Food 4 Less raise more than $100K for Japan earthquake relief

BY Allison Cerra

LOS ANGELES — Two Kroger banners have raised funds to benefit Japan earthquake and tsunami victims.

Ralphs and Food 4 Less said they raised more than $100,000 for the American Red Cross’ International Response Fund for its Japan relief efforts. The retailers hosted a fundraising campaign that ran from March 21 through April 9.

"The magnitude of our fundraising effort really speaks to the commitment and generosity of our customers and associates," said Mike Donnelly, president of Ralphs. "It is our hope that our donations will help the Red Cross provide much-needed assistance to the victims and families of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami."

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Despite divestment, expect innovation for brands GSK holds on to

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Duh, winning! Because there are no losers in this. GlaxoSmithKline will be able to funnel its extensive marketing dollars into a stable of poised-to-explode brands, niche marketers can take those brands being sold and breathe fresh marketing life into them and retailers now benefit most of all because a greater portfolio of brands are being marketed with gusto.

(THE NEWS: GSK announces divestment of OTC brands. For the full story, click here.)

For GSK, it means a chance to focus. For example, with growing attention paid to wellness and healthcare plans that put more onus on patients to change such bad behaviors as smoking, the Nicorette brand is poised for more growth. On the oral care side, Sensodyne is re-emerging as a brand powerhouse for aging boomers whose gum lines are receding and teeth sensitivity is an issue.

And if the rule is that older remedies make way for — and lose market share to — newly switched-from-Rx medicines, then Tums is the exception that proves that rule. Because Tums continues to grow, innovate and extol its value to the consumer, despite the introduction of H2 blockers almost a decade ago and, more recently, proton-pump inhibitors.

Expect innovation to keep coming out of the brands that GSK keeps.

And there are niche manufacturers that are going to get bigger and better out of this, too. Just look at what Meda has accomplished in the past quarter: They’ve grown into a company that now owns iron between Bifera, Feosol and the legacy brand Geritol (and its iron tonic), and can claim a stake within cough-cold with Contac and within energy with Vivarin. For the GSK brands now up for sale, a niche marketer will give these other brands a better chance to thrive and grow as they become priorities for the small and mid-size company or companies that will buy them.

And for the retailer, this means nothing gets lost in the shuffle. More choice equals larger market baskets. And with the focus you can expect from both GSK on its remaining brands and niche marketers on their newly acquired ones, retailers can expect plenty of traffic-driving activity that’ll put Mom in front of that shelf to choose in the first place.

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Drug stores will keep busy with extended allergy season

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Whoever named the genus to which ragweed plants belong “ambrosia” had a terrific sense of irony. The name, derived from Greek, refers to the food of the gods, but the plant is more like punishment from the gods, considering that it’s the main culprit in seasonal allergies.

(THE NEWS: Allergy season to last longer this year. For the full story, click here)

But while allergy sufferers are dreading the more than two-week extension to ragweed season, it’s great news for retail pharmacies, which now have more time to sell large volumes of over-the-counter drugs for allergies, one of the top categories in the drug store. That’s not surprising when one considers that according to one survey cited in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study, at least 10% of the U.S. population is ragweed sensitive. And with Claritin and Zyrtec alone generating more than $390 million during the 12-month period ended in March, the extended season is likely to drive the category even further.

What’s more, because allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine, such as Claritin-D, are kept behind the pharmacy counter, pharmacists likely will find themselves kept busy amid a chorus of coughs and congestion from customers with questions on how to mitigate their misery.

And coming just in time is the OTC switch of Sanofi-Aventis’ Allegra, which hit store shelves last month, bringing another major allergy product line to market. According to Kline Group analysts, the Allegra line is expected to reach $100 million in sales and increase until it approaches $200 million in three years. The Food and Drug Administration approved a version of the drug made by India-based generic drug maker Dr. Reddy’s Labs this week as well. But branded OTC drugs still can sell even in the face of generic competition, as the high sales figures of Claritin and Zyrtec illustrate.

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