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Walgreens adds text alerts to its refill reminder service

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Thursday launched a text messaging refill reminder functionality that allows patients to complete prescription orders.

"We’ve driven strong adoption and customer engagement through our mobile applications, and these mobile pharmacy features are also great tools for helping people manage their health," Walgreens president of e-commerce Sona Chawla said. "This is another way we’re extending the access to Walgreens pharmacy to patients on the go and helping them stay well."

Pharmacy patients can sign up for refill reminder text alerts at any Walgreens pharmacy and also online at Walgreens.com/textalerts .

The service is free to mobile and smartphone users, standard data and messaging rates apply through wireless carriers.

Walgreens currently has more than 2 million subscribers for its Prescription Ready Text Alerts, which notify customers when a prescription order is ready for pickup.

The text reminder service may drive compliance, the pharmacy retailer noted. "Medication non-adherence is one of the biggest hurdles in treating illness today, responsible for more than $100 billion each year in avoidable hospitalizations," Walgreens chief medical officer Cheryl Pegus said. "Tools and personalized services that can help patients remain compliant with their prescription regimens can be effective in lowering healthcare costs and improving patient care."

Walgreens mobile applications, which recently received Webby Awards in the people’s voice categories of Best Integrated Mobile Experience and Best Shopping from a Mobile Device, now account for more than 25% of the company’s online prescription refills.

These applications feature Refill by Scan, which enables mobile users to order refills simply by scanning the barcode on a prescription bottle. They also have a prescription refills tab, where refills can be ordered by entering a prescription number, with in-store pickup available at any Walgreens store.


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Branded-to-generic shift impacts Fred’s September comps

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fred’s posted a 1% gain in sales, to $17.5 million, for the five weeks ended Oct. 1.

Comparable store sales for September increased 1.1%; comparable store sales were flat in the year-earlier month. The September total sales comparison was adversely affected by store-closing sales that occurred last year during the month.

"Our general merchandise departments performed well during September, highlighted by the strength of our Core 5 Pet and Household Supplies areas, as well as other consumable departments," Fred’s CEO Bruce Efird said. "Sales for the month were within our projections as strong customer traffic offset a lower average customer ticket. The ongoing brand-to-generic shift within the pharmacy department, however, continued to affect comparable store sales. Additionally, the timing of Social Security payments resulted in a sales shift from September to October. With sales for the first two months of the third quarter tracking within the projected range, we remain confident with our forecasted earnings for the quarter."

Fred’s total sales for the year-to-date period increased 2% to $1.2 billion. On a comparable-store basis, year-to-date sales increased 0.6%, versus an increase of 2.3% for the same period last year.

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Target shoppers spent money in September

BY Mike Troy

MINNEAPOLIS — Target reported a moderately better-than-expected 5.3% same-store sales increase for September that was driven by broad-based gains in all categories and geographic regions, the company reported Thursday. The increase was almost entirely due to larger average transaction sizes and came on top of a prior year increase of 1.3%. The company also noted that customer traffic as measured by comparable-store transaction increase a little more than 1%.

“We’re very pleased with our September comparable-store sales, which were somewhat ahead of our expectations,” Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel said. “We experienced strong sales results throughout the month and across a broad array of merchandise categories, demonstrating Target’s ability to deliver on both sides of our ‘Expect More. Pay Less’ brand promise and generate strong financial performance even in this soft economic environment.”

As has been the case throughout the year, September comps in food increased in the mid teens and comps in the household essentials area also were up more than the company average. The beauty category led the way and experienced a high single-digit increase, while comps in apparel and accessories were up more than the company average. Double-digit increases were reported in the intimate, hosiery and performance apparel segments followed by a high single-digit increase in kids’ apparel. Jewelry and accessories were the weakest performers.

In the hardlines area, comps decreased in the low single-digit range, with the strongest performance in toys and the softest performance in electronics. Comps in home furnishings and décor increase in the low single-digit range, led by a mid single-digit increase in domestics, with the softest performance in decorative home area.

Aside from the solid overall 5.3% gain, Target has to feel good that every region of the country reported a healthy increase in comps and that inventory levels were described to be in very good condition. For the October reporting period, the company is expecting more of the same with a forecast calling for a comps increase in the low to mid single-digit range.

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