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Rite Aid launches initiative to aid customers with visual impairments

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HIL, Pa. Rite Aid on Thursday announced a nationwide initiative that will benefit Rite Aid customers with visual impairments and other disabilities.

As part of the program, Rite Aid has made enhancements to its Web site and has begun installing new point-of-sale equipment with tactile keypads to protect the privacy and security of all shoppers who have difficulty entering numbers on a flat screen.

“An accessible web site opens up unprecedented opportunities for people with vision loss to obtain goods, services and information on an equal footing,” stated Paul Schroeder, vice president, programs and policy group of the American Foundation for the Blind. “We applaud Rite Aid’s commitment to ensure that www.riteaid.com is usable by the broadest range of online consumers, including those who have disabilities.”

“Our goal is to deliver a superior shopping experience to all of our customers, and with the initiative announced today, we can better serve our customers who are blind or visually impaired,” stated Rob Easley, Rite Aid chief operating officer.

The announcement is the result of collaboration between Rite Aid and the American Foundation for the Blind, American Council of the Blind and California Council of the Blind.

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Duane Reade announces total sales increase for Q1

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK Duane Reade announced on Tuesday that it narrowed its first quarter net loss as total sales rose 3.1 percent to $427.1 million as new chairman and chief executive John Lederer expressed optimism in Duane Reade’s potential.

Filling the top spot vacated by Rick Dreiling in late January, Lederer, from 2001 to 2006, served as president of the Canadian supermarket chain with more than 1,000 corporate and franchise stores under various operating banners. During his 30-year career at Loblaw and its subsidiary companies, Lederer has held a number of senior positions throughout the organization, including executive vice president responsible for merchandising, operations and profit performance of all Loblaw businesses in eastern Canada.

In a conference call with analysts to discuss its first quarter results, Lederer said he has spent his time absorbing and learning more about the company by visiting stores to talk with customers and employees.

He said the changes that have taken place within the Duane Reade under the direction of Dreiling are tangible and sustainable and there is a strong foundation on which to build.

That is not to say that challenges do not exist. Lederer told analysts that the business has and will continue to evolve and the shifts in management undoubtedly add some uncertainty. In addition, the company may face such headwinds as the macro economic conditions creating challenges for many retailers. However, he stressed that business will continue as usual so the stride will not be broken. Lederer said he wants the transition to be seamless and wants to maximize Duane Reade’s potential.

Looking ahead, the company will develop additional initiatives to elevate the brand and the business but Lederer did not discuss details.

Total sales rose 3.1 percent to $427.1 million from $414.4 million in the year-ago period. Same-store sales rose 4.5 percent, while front-end same-store sales rose 7 percent. Pharmacy same-store sales increased 1.5 percent.

Front-end sales, which benefited from the earlier timing of the East holiday by 0.5 percent, were driven by strong sales of food and beverage categories, OTC products, and health and beauty care items.

Net loss for the quarter totaled $21 million compared with $30.5 million in the prior year. The operating loss was $4.1 million compared with $14.9 million in the year-ago period.

For 2008, the company reaffirmed its guidance of adjusted FIFO EBITDA in the range of $90 million to $95 million driven by net retail store sales, excluding pharmacy resale activity, in the range of $1.72 billion to $1.736 billion. Total same-store sales are expected to grow between 3.3 percent to 4.3 percent.

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Proffer leaves Longs

BY Doug Desjardins

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. Longs Drug Stores director of investor relations Phyllis Proffer left the company earlier this month, a company spokesman confirmed.

No reason was given for Proffer’s departure and Longs is currently looking for someone to fill the position. Proffer had been with Longs since August 2003 when she joined as director of investor relations and public relations.

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