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Walgreens Flu Index heat map indicates season slow down

BY Michael Johnsen

Oklahoma City continues to top the Walgreens Flu Index for the week ended Feb. 10, Walgreens stated Wednesday, followed by the Dallas area and Knoxville, Tenn. The most gains in flu incidence were found in the Newport News area of Virginia and Tennessee markets Nashville and Memphis.

But strictly judging by the coloring of Walgreens’ heat map, which last week was a sea of mostly oranges and reds, the national incidence of influenza illnesses may have reached its peak. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the percentage of doctor’s visits attributed to influenza-like activity topped out at 7.7%, which is the highest since the 2003/2004 season.

The top 10 Walgreens designated market areas with flu activity for the week ending Feb. 10 were:

  1. Oklahoma City;
  2. Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas;
  3. Knoxville, Tenn.;
  4. El Paso, Texas (Las Cruces, N.M.);
  5. Tyler-Longview (Lufkin & Nacogdoches), Texas;
  6. Waco-Temple-Bryan, Texas;
  7. Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Ark.;
  8. Montgomery-Selma, Ala.;
  9. Tulsa, Okla.; and
  10. Shreveport, La.

The top 10 markets by flu activity gains for the week were:

  1. Nashville, Tenn.;
  2. Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Va.;
  3. Memphis, Tenn.;
  4. Evansville, Ind.;
  5. Omaha, Neb.;
  6. Shreveport, La.;
  7. Reno, Nev.;
  8. Youngstown, Ohio;
  9. Anchorage, Alaska; and
  10. Louisville, Ky.

The Walgreens Flu Index is a weekly report developed to provide state- and market-specific information regarding flu activity, and ranks those states and markets experiencing the highest incidences of influenza across the country. The Flu Index provides insight by showing which cities or metropolitan areas are experiencing the most incidences of influenza each week based on Index methodology. The data does not measure actual levels or severity of flu activity.

The Walgreens Flu Index is compiled using weekly retail prescription data for antiviral medications used to treat influenza across Walgreens and Duane Reade locations nationwide, including Walgreens locations in Puerto Rico. The data is analyzed at state and geographic market levels to measure absolute impact and incremental change of antiviral medications on a per store average basis, and does not include markets in which Walgreens has fewer than 10 retail locations.

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Dollar General, Nielsen strengthen strategic partnership

BY DSN STAFF

Dollar General and Nielsen are looking to take their professional relationship to the next level. The retailer announced that together, both companies will broaden the application of Nielsen’s insights and solutions, to better support Dollar General’s strategic initiatives and in-market activation.

“We highly value our relationship with Nielsen and the work we do together to help Dollar General customers save time and money, every day,” Jason Reiser, chief merchandising officer at Dollar General, said. “Through data-driven decisions, our work with Nielsen has allowed us to stay laser-focused on our business goals, turn information into action and fuel our success in today’s complex retail environment.”

Throughout the past 14 years, the Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based retailer has looked to Nielsen as a trusted partner to support its merchandising and marketing initiatives, which have driven the company’s growth in the marketplace, the company said.

“We are proud of our long-standing partnership and look forward to expanding our relationship to support Dollar General’s continued growth and evolution.” Jeanne Danubio, EVP of retail for lead markets at Nielsen, said.

This expansion of services strengthens Nielsen’s position as the analytics authority for dollar channel retail outlets as it currently covers metrics for 90% of the total U.S. dollar channel market, the company said.

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Trump budget’s ‘Blue Apron-style’ SNAP proposal raises industry eyebrows

BY David Salazar

A small section of the White House’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 could have big implications for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and food retailers. As part of President Donald Trump’s proposed changes to the Dept. of Agriculture — which include a 16% decrease in its budget from the 2017 enacted level — is a plan to send food benefits directly to beneficiaries’ homes that White House director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney compared to Blue Apron.

The effort, which the USDA has officially dubbed America’s Harvest Box would impact roughly 81% of SNAP households, or 16.4 million households that receive $90 or more per month in SNAP benefits. The USDA projects that the box will make up roughly half a household’s SNAP benefits, with the remainder delivered via Electronic Benefit Transfer card.

The USDA’s fact sheet, published by Agri-Pulse, notes that this effort has the potential to save $129.2 billion between FY2019 and FY2028. In a press briefing on Monday, Mulvaney highlighted the savings to the government from the program.

“It lowers the cost to us because we can buy prices at wholesale, whereas they have to buy it at retail,” Mulvaney said. “It also makes sure that they’re getting nutritious food. So we’re pretty excited about that. That’s a tremendous cost savings.”

CNBC reported that SNAP purchases drive 7.5% of overall supermarket sales, according to Customer Growth Partners. The Food Marketing Institute’s chief public policy officer Jennifer Hatcher on Monday noted that the proposal “makes major changes, but not changes that SNAP-authorized food retailers see as positive or even efficient.”

“FMI and our members have worked with the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and the USDA over several decades to achieve a national system, utilizing existing commercial infrastructure and technology to achieve the greatest efficiency, availability and lowest cost,” Hatcher said. “As we understand the proposal in the President’s budget to create a USDA commodity foods box of staples, each of these achievements would be lost.”

Hatcher also noted that while the savings from “Perhaps this proposal would save money in one account, but based on our decades of experience in the program, it would increase costs in other areas that would negate any savings.”

Indeed, one of the most potentially costly questions — that of fulfillment — is an open question for the program. “States will be given substantial flexibility to distribute these food benefits to participants. States can distribute these boxes through existing infrastructure, partnerships, and/or directly to residences through commercial and/or retail delivery services,” the USDA fact sheet said.

Hatcher said, “As the private partners with the government ensuring efficient redemption of SNAP benefits, retailers are looking to the administration to reduce red tape and regulations, not increase them with proposals such as this one.”

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