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Rite Aid’s Wellness+ program could keep retailer in race

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — It’s interesting how things can change over the course of a year, and the huge growth of Rite Aid’s Wellness+ program provides a good example.

(THE NEWS: Rite Aid finishes tough fiscal year, but Q4 shows improvements. For the full story, click here.)

During a conference call last March, John Standley, the company’s president and COO at the time, called the then-new Wellness+ program the largest marketing expenditure Rite Aid had made in several years. In test markets, he said, more than 50% of front-end sales and 40% of prescriptions were on the card, and it had between 15 million and 20 million members.

Fast forward to this past Thursday, when Standley, now president and CEO, told investors that the program had grown to account for 67% of front-end sales, and 58% of script count with more than 36 million members — more than one-tenth the population of the United States.

It is no news flash that Rite Aid, third largest retail pharmacy chain in the country, has faced major challenges over the past decade. While Walgreens and CVS each have more than 7,000 stores and are expanding, Rite Aid has 4,714 and has been contracting. And, its recently reported fiscal 2011 earnings reflect many of the headwinds the company has battled along the way.

But the expansion of Wellness+ and such new initiatives as the wellness store format that it recently implemented in the Northeast are the kinds of things that could help Rite Aid reverse course. With same-store sales up for the first time all year during its fourth quarter, it is another indication that Wellness+ already has gained traction with Rite Aid customers. The company already expects to reduce losses and increase same-store sales in fiscal year 2012, and while nobody can predict the future, it appears to be on track to accomplish that.

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Keeping footwear in ‘shape’

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — A line of inflatable inserts that prevent boots from wrinkling and creasing have gained distribution in Duane Reade.

Booty Shapers offer consumers an inexpensive way to store boots and are available in small, medium and large sizes, catering to all different kinds of boots, the company said.

Booty Shapers can be purchased at Duane Reade, CVS.com, Drugstore.com and more, for a suggested retail price of $9.99 per pair.

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Target garners top spot as valuable brand

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — Target once again has taken the top spot as the retailer with the strongest consumer brand equity, according to the latest Harris poll.

This marked the second consecutive year Target has led the way in the "value retail" category, with an increasing gap noted between the company and runner-up Walmart, according to the "2011 Harris Poll EquiTrend" study. Target led the way with a ranking of 74.1, while Walmart had a ranking of 70.8. The industry average in the value retail category was 67.3.

Despite the fact that Target holds the No. 2 retailer spot in the United States, the study determined results by equity, consumer connection, commitment, brand behavior, brand advocacy and trust. The keystone to the program is equity, which provides an understanding of a brand’s overall strength and is determined by a calculation of familiarity, quality and purchase consideration.

“In difficult economic times, consumers look for value.” said Jeni Lee Chapman, EVP brand and communications consulting at Harris Interactive. “Target is seen as a retailer with strong brand equity especially when compared to its competition. As consumers consolidate where they choose to spend their paychecks, those retailers with the highest brand equity are going to obtain greater share of that spending.”

This year’s "Harris Poll EquiTrend" study was conducted online among 25,099 U.S. consumers ages 15 years and older between Jan. 11 and 27. A total of 1,273 brands were rated in 53 separate categories.

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