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Retailers, suppliers band together to help Joplin, Mo., residents

BY Antoinette Alexander

JOPLIN, Mo. — It has been weeks since a massive tornado ripped through Joplin, Mo., bringing with it widespread destruction and a death toll that, by most recent reports, has surpassed 150. As residents now work to clean up the devastation and piece back together their tattered homes and shattered community, several industry members have stepped up to show their support.


“This is a horrible tragedy for the Joplin community. We’re deeply concerned by the devastation we’ve seen, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been injured or lost family members in the tornado,” Walmart said in a company statement issued one day after the May 22 tornado. “Our store near Rangeline Road was significantly damaged. Sadly, we had some injuries and fatalities as the tornado blew through the building. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those customers in this extremely difficult time.”


To help with the relief efforts, Walmart pledged $1 million and soon began directing truckloads of water, food and other basic items to the area.


CVS Caremark stated that the tornado directly affected some of its PBM clients and their members in the area. To help them and the other residents, CVS Caremark donated about $40,000 in monetary and in-kind donations.


Upon hearing of the disaster, the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program hit the road to bring its free laundry service to the area. Working with the American Red Cross, the program provided free full-service laundry to relief workers and residents in need.


Tide Loads of Hope was created in 2005 to provide free laundry services to families affected by Hurricane Katrina. The program since has expanded and, collectively, Tide has washed more than 44,000 loads of laundry for more than 35,000 families impacted by disasters.

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CVS to hasten Rx process with real-time ePA pilot

BY DSN STAFF

CVS Caremark will launch a pilot of a 
real-time, integrated electronic prior authorization capability, available to its pharmacy benefit management clients, to help speed access to prescription medications.


Obtaining prior authorization for prescription medications is a time-consuming process for prescribers, patients and pharmacists, and currently requires phone calls, faxes and hard-copy request forms. While some online solutions are available, they do not provide both a real-time solution and one that is integrated with available e-prescribing or electronic health record tools. Recognizing this gap in the marketplace, CVS Caremark has developed the ePA capability. A successful pilot would represent a significant first step toward the development of a technical standard the industry could use to achieve broad adoption of ePA.


The ePA pilot aims to enable prescribers that use a variety of available e-prescribing and EHR tools to coordinate a real-time ePA request when initiating a patient’s prescription. Prescribers also will have the option to access the process through a client portal. The prescriber will be able to send an ePA request detailing the related coverage criteria and receive a real-time status update regarding an approval for the medication. Requests that are denied will be communicated following manual review by clinical staff.


Surescripts is participating in the CVS Caremark ePA pilot to monitor and understand how what is learned can be applied to the industry. NaviNet, through its NaviNet Mobile Connect platform, will be participating in the ePA pilot. Also participating is Allscripts, whose client base includes all former users of CVS Caremark’s proprietary iScribe e-prescribing tool, which was transitioned to the Allscripts ePrescribe solution last year. CVS Caremark added that MedPlus has indicated its intent to deliver ePA functionality in a future release of their tool. Additional vendors have expressed their intent to deliver ePA functionality in future product releases upon the successful completion of this pilot.

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Apple exec as JCPenney CEO could be boon for beauty

BY Mike Troy

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — The fate of beauty initiatives at JCPenney, along with a lot of the company’s other plans, just became a lot less clear following the hiring of former Apple executive Ron Johnson as CEO.

(THE NEWS: Ex-Apple exec fulfills dream, becomes JCPenney CEO. For the full story, click here)

Johnson previously served as SVP retail at Apple and isn’t due to join JCPenney in his new role until Nov. 1, but when he does, the guy who spent the past 11 years building Apple’s network of 300 worldwide stores is sure to bring with him some fresh ideas about how to accelerate growth at JCPenney’s 1,106 stores. In fact, Johnson contends reinventing the department stores is the single greatest opportunity in American retailing and in the press release announcing his appointment he said he looks forward to transforming the way America shops.

The company has been doing some transforming on its own the past few years to make its brand of retail more relevant to shoppers, but for the most part the changes have been incremental and results have been slow to materialize amid challenging economic conditions. One key initiative that stands out is an agreement with the Sephora division of the global luxury brand conglomerate LVMH to install 1,500-sq.-ft. Sephora branded beauty departments inside JCPenney stores. The new departments add some "wow" factor to the company¹s stores and address a major competitive shortcoming relative to other department store operators who offer prestige brands. However, the pace of the additions has been slow. Even though the agreement was announced in 2006, at the end of the first quarter there were only 254 Sephora departments inside JCPenney stores and that was after the addition of 23 new departments during the first quarter on top of the addition last year of 76 departments.

The potential to accelerate the rollout of this meaningful point of difference will likely be on a short list of priorities for a new CEO looking to execute transformational change. And an even deeper relationship with Sephora could also open new doors for JCPenney to tap into LVMH’s roster of other premium brands with all sorts of intriguing possibilities. Nothing is likely to happen anytime soon though as J.C. Penney’s merchandising priorities are set for the year and Johnson doesn’t join the company until Nov. 1. But when he does, the market has high expectations he will bring some of the Apple magic to J.C. Penney along with design sensibilities obtained during 15 years of merchandising experience gained at Target. Upon word that Johnson was joining J.C. Penney, the retailer’s share price surged $4.93.

Such optimism may ultimately be well founded, but for the time being it ignores gigantic differences between Apple and JCPenney. For starters, Johnson led Apple¹s retail efforts during a period when the company brought to market what was arguably the most innovative and differentiated product lineup the consumer electronics marketplace has ever seen. As a result, customers beat a path to Apple stores where they gladly paid premium prices and felt privileged to do so.

Conversely, JCPenney competes in a space with abundant competitors and operates stores that look remarkably similar to 30 years ago. The company offers a product mix of apparel, accessories, footwear and home goods that are largely undifferentiated and can be found at countless other locations at comparable or lower prices.

Johnson said he has always dreamed of leading a major retail company, but the top job at JCPenney could become a nightmare as the retailer faces countless challenges and there’s no Steve Jobs behind the curtain working on the next big idea that will send shoppers flocking to JCPenney stores.

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