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Wal-Mart alters clinic strategy

BY Antoinette Alexander

BENTONVILLE, Ark. —Wal-Mart is expanding its reach into the healthcare sector with its plans to operate 400 co-branded, in-store health clinics by 2010.

The move comes on the heels of the retailer’s announcement that it plans to offer its own PBM services to “select employers” and the closure of 23 CheckUps in-store health clinics in Wal-Mart stores in four Southern states.

“We believe Wal-Mart is changing its retail clinic strategy on the heels of the closure of CheckUps. The company now requires that clinic operators within its stores must either be a hospital system or be closely affiliated with one,” stated Deborah Weinswig, Citigroup analyst, in a recent research note.

The big-box retailer is partnering with clinic operator RediClinic and local hospital systems to open the co-branded clinics, dubbed The Clinic at Wal-Mart, in 200 Wal-Mart supercenters. Wal-Mart also has signed a letter of intent to partner with St. Vincent Health System, a part of the Catholic Healthcare Initiatives system, to open four co-branded clinics in Little Rock, Ark.

The Clinic at Wal-Mart, owned and operated by St. Vincent Health System, is expected to open in Little Rock by the end of April, as will the clinic owned and operated by RediClinic in association with a local hospital system in Atlanta. By the summer, Wal-Mart expects to open co-branded clinics with RediClinic and a local hospital system in Dallas.

There currently are 77 limited-scope medical clinics opened in Wal-Mart stores across 12 states through several partnerships with independent healthcare clinic operators.

Not only will the clinic expansion likely drive new prescription customers and bolster front-end sales, but it also will give customers greater access to a low-cost option for the treatment of common ailments and preventive care, such as health screenings, medical tests and vaccinations. Weinswig noted that more than half (55 percent) of its in-store clinic patients are uninsured. For those who are insured, Wal-Mart plans to accept health insurance plans, including Aetna, Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield and others.

“Wal-Mart is giving operators a turnkey solution: offering a 500-plus-square-foot clinic with all the bells and whistles. The operator will get major brand visibility and will not have to negotiate for space or location, deal with building permits, contractors or suppliers. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart can standardize the clinic experience no matter what store patients visit,” Weinswig stated.

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Sturken to celebrate his fifth year at Spartan by ringing NASDAQ bell

BY Michael Johnsen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Spartan Stores’ chairman and chief executive officer Craig Sturken is slated to ring the NASDAQ opening bell on March 3 in celebration of his fifth anniversary leading Spartan, the company announced Thursday.

 “It is an honor to ring the opening NASDAQ bell in celebration of our fifth successful year since transforming into a consumer-centric organization and refocusing our business on our core distribution and retail operations,” Sturken stated. “We have been in the grocery business for more than 90 years and this is our eighth year as a public company, which is marked by our ability to develop and execute successful business strategies in a highly competitive market.”

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Unilever to reorganize company structure

BY Antoinette Alexander

LONDON Unilever, whose brands include Axe, Sunsilk and Dove, has announced that it is restructuring the company and combining its home and personal care segment and food segment into a single category structure.

Ralph Kugler, president of home and personal care, will step down in May at the Annual General Meetings after 29 years of service. The roles of president of home and personal care and president of foods will be merged under the leadership of Vindi Banga, currently president of foods.

To reflect the company’s focus on growth in developing markets, Central and Eastern Europe will be managed within an enlarged region comprised of Asia, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe. Western Europe will become a standalone region.

In other moves, Kees van der Graaf will retire in May from the Unilever board and from his role as president of Europe after a 32-year career with Unilever.

Harish Manwani, currently president of Asia/Africa, will lead the new expanded region. Doug Baillie will serve as president of Western Europe, having previously served as chief executive officer of Hindustan Unilever.

“These measures build naturally on the changes of recent years and give us an organizational structure even better placed to advance our growth agenda. At the same time, I want to express my deep appreciation to Kees and Ralph for the significant contribution they have made over long and distinguished years,” stated Patrick Cescau, group chief executive.

In addition, James Lawrence, currently chief financial officer, will be proposed in May for election as an executive director of Unilever. This change will mean that the Unilever board will be comprised of two executive directors and 11 non-executives.

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