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Standley replaces Easley as Rite Aid COO in executive shakeup

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. Rite Aid Corp. on Thursday announced a major shakeup of its operational executives—bringing back John Standley to replace Robert Easley as chief operating officer and naming Frank Vitrano to the combined role of chief financial officer and chief administrative officer, replacing outgoing Kevin Twomey, executive vice president and chief financial officer, and Pierre Legault, chief administrative officer. Easley, Twomey and Legault were all reported as leaving Rite Aid to pursue other interests

“I would like to thank Rob, Kevin and Pierre for their dedicated service and contributions to Rite Aid and wish them well,” stated Mary Sammons, chairman and chief executive officer, Rite Aid.

Standley had left Rite Aid in 2005 to pursue a turnaround opportunity at Pathmark as chief executive officer. Vitrano, also from Pathmark, served as that company’s president, chief financial officer and treasurer. Both executives left Pathmark following the grocerOs acquisition by A&P

Standley and Vitrano will report directly to Sammons. The appointments are effective immediately.

“This is the right time for these changes as Rite Aid focuses on delivering strong value for shareholders, suppliers, customers and associates in a challenging business environment,O Sammons said. “With the integration of Brooks/Eckerd behind us and same-store sales in the acquired stores continuing to trend upward, the key task before us is to drive profitable growth.”

At Pathmark, Standley, 45, engineered and led the successful turnaround and sale of the company to A&P. He has intimate knowledge of Rite Aid’s operations gained during six years at the company between 1999 and 2005, serving most recently as senior executive vice president, chief financial officer and chief administration officer. During that period, Standley oversaw the implementation of new financial controls and was integrally involved in the development of the company’s current information systems, real estate strategy and compliance programs. He also has served for the past several months in an advisory capacity to the company.

“John is a proven leader with a broad-based financial background, backed by hands-on operational experience in a 23-year career in the retail grocery and pharmacy industry. He spearheaded a remarkable success story at Pathmark; and while at Rite Aid earlier this decade, he was a key member of the team that helped turn around our operating results. I am confident that he is ready to hit the ground running,” Sammons said.

Vitrano, 53, served in a variety of positions during a 35-year career at Pathmark. Among his many achievements, he was instrumental in driving the company’s rebound and sale to A&P during 2005 to 2007, reporting to Standley. His new role at Rite Aid combines the functions of CFO and CAO, which will help the company further improve operational efficiency.

“Frank’s track record of success across a range of operating and financial disciplines – from implementing cost savings initiatives to engineering debt and credit facilities – will serve Rite Aid well as we move forward. He forged a strong partnership with John at Pathmark, which will enable them to begin working quickly with me to deliver results for the company,” Sammons said.

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Panasonic releases new battery model

BY Jenna Duncan

SEACAUCUS, N.J. Panasonic has introduced its newest battery—the EVOLTA model—which has already been listed in Guinness World Records for being the “longest lasting AA alkaline battery cell” used in electronic devices.

The new EVOLTA battery has more internal space than previous versions of Panasonic batteries. It also features improved sealing technology and is produced with new materials such as manganese dioxide and zinc which make it more durable and better-performing, the company said.

To prove the better performance of the new EVOLTA batteries, the company product tested them in devices such as digital cameras, FM radios and other small electronics and found the running life and usage rates to be longer and higher than older Panasonic battery models, Panasonic reported.

Panasonic has also announced the start of its EVOLTA Sweepstakes which runs through March 31, 2009. Prizes include Panasonic products such as a 42-inch Panasonic VIERA plasma HDTV, smaller Panasonic VIERA plasma HDTVs, Blu-ray disc players and 15 LUMIX digital still cameras. Customers can find more information online at www.panasonic.com/evolta.

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Retailing forecasts predict growth, but at a trickle

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON, D.C. The National Retail Federation on Tuesday released its forecast for the upcoming 2008 holiday season, projecting that sales will rise 2.2 percent this year to $470.4 billion.

This gain falls well below the 10-year average of 4.4 percent holiday sales growth and would represent the slowest growth since 2002, when holiday sales rose 1.3 percent, the association stated.

“Current financial pressures and a lack of confidence in the economy will force shoppers to be very conservative with their holiday spending,” stated NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells. “We expect consumers to be frugal this season and less willing to splurge on discretionary items.”

A number of economic indicators point to a challenging holiday for retailers. A struggling housing market and rising unemployment accompanied by meager income gains will continue to hamper the consumer throughout the season.

Food and energy costs will remain high. With the current financial industry crisis continuing to chip away at consumer confidence, NRF does not foresee an economic turnaround until the second half of next year.

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