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Wal-Mart adds diabetes diagnostics to low-cost healthcare offerings

BY Michael Johnsen

BENTONVILLE, Ark. —Determined to become the destination for low-cost health care, Wal-Mart last month announced that it would incorporate its ReliOn diabetes-management products into the retailer’s affordable pharmacy program by selling all ReliOn diabetes supplies for $9—including the ReliOn Ultima blood glucose meter, a 20-count package of ReliOn Ultima blood glucose test strips and the ReliOn A1c test, a Wal-Mart exclusive brand manufactured by Abbott.

It’s a move that already has been recognized by Consumer Reports, which named the ReliOn meter at the $9 price point Consumer Reports’ best buy in a September 2008 review of blood glucose meters. LifeScan’s OneTouch UltraMini, sold at a $20 price point, ranks No. 1 on the report. Most of the remaining meters sell between $60 and $80. Similarly, ReliOn test strips are listed by Consumer Reports at 44 cents per strip, less than half of the $1.02 average per-strip cost of all 13 meters.

ReliOn meters ranked No. 4 overall out of 13 meters reviewed.

The move is reminiscent of the chain’s $4 generic offerings—a program that has saved consumers more than $1 billion to date, according to the mass merchant—and may prompt other retailers to match the offer among their own private-label meter offerings.

“This latest expansion of our health care offering comes from our commitment to help people affected by diabetes save money so they can live better,” stated John Agwunobi, senior vice president and Wal-Mart’s president of its health and wellness division.

According to Wal-Mart, a customer who tests blood glucose levels once per day can save more than $200 annually based on the retail price of competing test strips sold at the mass merchant.

Wal-Mart is helping to get the word out on its $9 diabetes supplies through the sponsorship of several American Diabetes Association events, including the recent ADA Diabetes EXPO events in Atlanta, Boston and Tampa.

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Wegmans begins trial of self-checkout lanes in New York store

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCHESTER, N.Y. Wegmans is testing four self-checkout lanes for the first time near company headquarters at its Penfield, N.Y. store based on consumer demand, according to published reports.

We were never in a rush to introduce self-checkout,” Jo Natale, Wegmans spokeswoman, told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. “We had never seen one we liked or offered features for customer convenience.”

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Wegmans stores close all photography centers

BY Jenna Duncan

ROCHESTER, N.Y. Supermarket chain Wegmans is closing down its photo operations, reports this week said. After more 20 years serving its communities with photo services, the company will no longer offer full-service in-store photo development.

The closures affect 12 stores in Wegmans’ Rochester market. This will affect 18 full-time employees and 52 people who work in photo part-time in Rochester, the company said, as well as 63 full-time photo employees and 173 part-timers companywide. Wegmans has said it will try to make adjustments to keep some of those employees in the company.

So far in the past year, Wegmans has closed 9 of its photo departments. The company has said that the closures are largely due to the growing popularity and accessibility of digital photography.

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