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Survey: Americans’ hand-washing habits haven’t changed

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK Fearless prediction No. 1: You can bet a case of hand sanitizer that if and when this survey is conducted in late October, as opposed to late July, there’ll be a whole lot more people not only aware of the importance of hand-washing and sanitizers, but they’ll likely be rubbing their hands raw with the amount of hand washing that’ll be going on.

 

Here’s why: The course of H1N1 was first picked up late last season — by both government officials as well as the consumer media. As spring days heated up into summer, H1N1 still drove higher-than-usual rates of influenza illnesses. It’s the media that pushed this story a few pages back from its headliner position in April.

 

It was only a week or so ago that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that both Alaska and Maine were experiencing “widespread” incidence of influenza-like illnesses, primarily H1N1. Depending upon where you draw the line, that’s either the earliest in a influenza season that a pair of states reported widespread ILI, or the latest holdover of illness from the season prior.

So as the United States comes into its traditional influenza season — where the question many consumers will be asking is, “Is it H1N1 flu, seasonal flu or just a bad head cold?” — that story will once again become front page, above-the-fold material.

Which brings about fearless prediction No. 2: It’s going to be a doozy of a season this year. Here’s why: While the mortality rate associated with H1N1 thus far has not exceeded that of seasonal flu, it’s going to impact a whole other demographic. In normal seasons, it’s parents of infants, people with compromising respiratory conditions and seniors that need to worry most about getting the flu. With H1N1, it’s just about everybody else. To date, 75% of H1N1 hospitalizations and 60% of deaths have happened in people younger than 50, the CDC has reported, noting that pregnant women and people between the ages of 6 months and 24 are at greatest risk.

And that makes this year a simple game of numbers. If you significantly broaden the population at risk for becoming ill with H1N1, then you’re going to have a lot more ill people than usual.

Unless, of course, more of them start washing their hands.

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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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