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Rite Aid gears up for flu season

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. This flu season, more than 2,900 Rite Aid pharmacies are offering regular seasonal flu shots, and starting Sept. 1, flu shot locations and clinic dates will be available at www.riteaid.com or by calling (866) 751-1494, the drug chain announced Monday morning.

More than 2,000 certified immunizing pharmacists in more than 1,500 Rite Aid stores will give regular seasonal flu shots now and throughout the flu season. In those locations without an immunizing pharmacist, Rite Aid has contracted a third-party vaccination provider.

Rite Aid is currently in discussions with federal, state and local health department officials around the possibility of securing and administering H1N1 vaccine, the company added.

Rite Aid pharmacists are also available to counsel customers and answer questions about both the regular seasonal flu and H1N1 flu.

The No. 3 druggist also has been stocking up on such supplies as alcohol-based hand sanitizers/hand rubs, thermometers, masks and other flu-related items in anticipation of a busy season. Stores also are stocked with the prescription medications Tamiflu and Relenza for those patients whose doctor has recommended they take one of these medications or should have a prescription ready if they do require the medications.

The CDC is asking individuals and families to be prepared with flu-related supplies in the event of sickness, so they can avoid making trips out in public while sick and contagious. They also are recommending those who are sick to stay out of schools and businesses to avoid spreading the flu.

Many Rite Aid pharmacists already have been giving regular seasonal flu shots following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice that anyone who wishes to reduce the risk of getting the regular seasonal flu get a flu shot as soon as they are available.

Information about regular seasonal flu and the novel H1N1 flu also will be available at www.riteaid.com

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Rite Aid founder succumbs to cancer

BY Michael Johnsen

HARRISBURG, Pa.

Rite Aid founder Alex Grass passed away Thursday night after a 10-year battle with lung cancer, The Patriot News reported online Thursday night.

Grass opened his first drug store in 1962, under the moniker Thrif D Discount Center, in coal-mining town Scranton, Pa, where Grass was born. First year sales totaled $750,000. That 1,700-square-foot health and beauty aids store marked the beginning of the drug chain that would be renamed Rite Aid in 1968, the year of the company’s first public stock offering. Rite Aid offered 350,000 shares at $25 per share then, fielding 22 locations in central Pennsylvania.

Grass retired from the day-to-day operations of Rite Aid in 1995, ceding the chairmanship of Rite Aid to his son Martin Grass. He exited the Rite Aid board in 2001.

He was named to Drug Store News’ REX (Retail EXcellence awards) Retailer Hall of Honors in recognition of his lifetime achievements in the druggist industry in 1996.

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NACDS Webinar offers retailers strategies for surviving the downturn

BY DSN STAFF

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores Retail Advisory Board hosted a Webinar Tuesday featuring speaker Thom Blischok, president of consulting and innovation, for Information Resources Inc., discussing the changing paradigm of today’s cash-crunched shopper by way of its NACDS ECON09 program.

The bottom line — today’s shopper is predominantly buying less and will continue to buy less for the foreseeable future. So the strategy is to position your company against that new shopping paradigm, Blischok suggested.

In his closing remarks, Blischok outlined five strategies for both retailer and supplier:

  • Simplify the shopping experience (78% of shoppers want this, Blischok said). As today’s consumer is bombarded with messaging and discounting, the retailer/supplier who makes the shopping trip easy ought to come out a winner;
  • Redefine end-to-end shopper communication. Online media, including social media sites like Twitter or Facebook, not only continues to gain in popularity, but serves as a growing source for information for today’s consumer. “Social media plays a major role in influenced-based marketing,” Blischok said;
  • Recognize and capitalize on changing rituals now. Rituals such as more and more consumers making up a shopping list at their kitchen table (with the laptop very likely opened to Facebook and other Web sites right next to them). Retailers or suppliers may want to seek out ways to get on that shopping list in the first place instead of attempting to convert an impulse purchase at the store;
  • Focus on familiar products. Primarily because trial outside of trusted name-brands is somewhat inhibited right now, Blischok suggested; and
  • Prepare for a new conservative shopper long-term. Because the dollar-saving shopping behaviors consumers are learning today are not likely to fade even after the economy begins its recovery. The conservative shopper buys less and more carefully, Blischok said.

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