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Small increase in January retail sales indicate ‘stable yet fragile economy,’ NRF says

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — Retail sales were up slightly in January as the increases in payroll taxes and energy prices forced consumers to change spending habits, according to a new report by the National Retail Federation.

According to the NRF, retail sales for the month increased 0.3% compared with December and by 5.4% unadjusted year-over-year. When factoring in non-general merchandise such as automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, those figures were 0.1% and 4.7%, respectively. Health and personal care stores’ sales decreased 1% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 0.7% unadjusted year-over-year. General merchandise stores sales increased by 1.1% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and decreased 0.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

"Today’s retail sales figures continue to indicate a stable yet fragile economy," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. "Consumers are continuing to hold back on spending just as our economy is held back by political brinkmanship in D.C. The failure to address the critical challenges confronting our economy will continue to dampen consumer confidence, which will in turn mute sales and growth. The economy will continue to limp along until our politicians finally address our tax and spending challenges and put forward a pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda."

The NRF released its annual retail sales forecast for this year in late January, estimating that retail industry sales — excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants — will increase 3.4%, while online sales will grow by 9% to 12%.


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Shoppers Drug Mart, RBC Insurance launch co-branded travel insurance offering

BY Antoinette Alexander

TORONTO — Canadian pharmacy retailer Shoppers Drug Mart and RBC Insurance have announced the launch of co-branded travel insurance product offerings to be sold exclusively online through the Shoppers Drug Mart website beginning Feb. 16.

"Many Canadians already turn to Shoppers Drug Mart for their travel needs, including passport photos, travel accessories and immunizations," stated Domenic Pilla, president and CEO of Shoppers Drug Mart. "With the introduction of this co-branded travel insurance, with a trusted provider like RBC Insurance, we are strengthening our total travel offering and improving access and choice for our customers."

The travel insurance lineup is the latest addition to the suite of co-branded products available since RBC and Shoppers Drug Mart announced an alliance in early 2012. The RBC Shoppers Optimum banking account was launched at that time and the co-branded MasterCard made its debut in the fall of 2012.

When Canadians visit the Shoppers Drug Mart Web site to purchase travel insurance and enter their Shoppers Optimum card number, they will earn 10 Shoppers Optimum Points per $1 of insurance premium. Shoppers Optimum Points will automatically be credited to their account. If the RBC Shoppers Optimum MasterCard is used to purchase travel insurance online, another five points per $1 will be earned, through the credit card.

Travel insurance products available through the Shoppers Drug Mart Web site will include emergency travel medical, as well as trip cancellation and interruption insurance.
 

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Walgreens extends Way to Well Health Tour with AARP through 2013

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Tuesday announced that the Walgreens Way to Well Health Tour with AARP will continue through 2013. The program is dedicated to providing free preventive and early detection health services to some of the nation’s most underserved communities. Now through December, the tour will provide free tests, assessments, education and consulting services to communities located predominantly in cities with the highest prevalence for leading diseases and highest uninsured and unemployed populations.

"Our Way to Well Health Tour is one of the ways we can deliver valuable wellness services directly to underserved communities — those most in need," stated Greg Wasson, Walgreens president and CEO. "We’re glad to continue our long-standing relationship with AARP to provide these screenings and help detect existing problems that may need further medical attention. And we’re very grateful to all the Walgreens customers whose purchases of our brands are helping support this program."

The Way to Well Health Tour is partially funded by customers who support the Walgreens wellness services mission by purchasing Walgreens-brand health-and-wellness products. From Feb. 1 through Dec., 1 cent from the purchase of every Walgreens-brand health-and-wellness product, up to $3 million annually, will support bringing preventive wellness services to local communities through the Walgreens Way to Well Fund, Walgreens stated.

The health tour is comprised of a fleet of four customized vehicles that will simultaneously tour separate regions of the United States and Puerto Rico. The 2013 tour marks the fifth year Walgreens and AARP have provided this community outreach program. Since its inception, the tour has delivered nearly 3.5 million health tests valued at more than $70 million.

The Walgreens Way to Well Health Tour with AARP is one of the charitable programs that is part of the Walgreens Way to Well Commitment, which began in 2011 as a four-year, $100 million initiative to improve the everyday health of Americans nationwide. The initiative also is dedicated to providing accessible, affordable resources for prevention and early detection of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Tests include total cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, body mass index, body composition, skeletal muscle, resting metabolism, visceral fat, real body age and body weight.

All participants will receive a free, one-year AARP membership. Participants younger than 50 years can pass the free AARP membership on to an eligible adult, and existing members will receive a one-year extension on their current membership. Also available with the tour are educational health-and-wellness resources provided by AARP, as well as other Walgreens Way to Well nonprofit partners.

Visitors also will be able to sign up for Walgreens Balance Rewards program at tour stop locations.  

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