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Walgreens Flu Index tracking uptick in activity across the nation

BY Michael Johnsen

There may have been plenty of cough and cold products in the Christmas stockings of residents in the Lone Star State, as Texas markets continue to top the Walgreens Flu Index list for flu activity, the Deerfield, Ill.-based chain announced Wednesday morning. As many as nine of the top 10 markets exhibiting flu activity were in Texas, though flu incidence may be gaining traction across the nation as gains in flu activity were recorded from San Diego to Lafeyette, La.

With the ability to generate hyper-local data across most U.S. markets, the Flu Index is an online, interactive resource allowing anyone to search and find information regarding the most current state of influenza in their community. 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 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 top 10 designated market areas with flu activity for the week ending Dec. 30 were:

  1. Tyler-Longview (Lufkin & Nacogdoches), Texas;
  2. Harlingen-Weslaco-Brownsville-McAllen, Texas;
  3. Waco-Temple-Bryan, Texas;
  4. Houston;
  5. Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas;
  6. Corpus Christi, Texas;
  7. El Paso, Texas (Las Cruces, N.M.);
  8. San Antonio;
  9. Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas; and
  10. Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Ark.

             
For the same week ending Dec. 30 the top 10 DMAs with the greatest flu activity gains were:

  1. El Paso, Texas (Las Cruces, N.M.);
  2. Des Moines-Ames, Iowa;
  3. San Antonio;
  4. Montgomery-Selma, Ala.;
  5. San Diego;
  6. Reno, Nev.;
  7. La Crosse-Eau Claire, Wis.;
  8. Phoenix (Prescott), Ariz.;
  9. Lafayette, La.; and
  10. Wausau-Rhinelander, Wis.

             
 

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Shoppers Drug Mart enters supplier agreements for medical cannabis

BY Gisselle Gaitan

Shoppers Drug Mart is aiming towards securing its place as a dispensary for medical marijuana with news circulating that the retail pharmacy chain has now entered a supplier agreement with two companies — Aphira and MedReleaf. 

Leamington, Ontario-based Aphira — a company that produces, supplies and sells medical cannabis — announced entering an agreement with the retail chain pharmacy to supply medical marijuana in early December. 

"We have an impeccable record cultivating and producing high-quality, medical-grade cannabis," Vic Neufeld, CEO of Aphria, said. "These traits make us a strong partner for an organization looking to serve and support Canadian patients."

On the heels of that announcement, MedReleaf also announced entering an agreement with Shoppers Drug Mart to supply medical cannabis. The Markham, Ontario-based company is an ICH-GMP and ISO 9001 certified cannabis producer in North America.

"From inception, MedReleaf has been focused on setting the standard for patient care in our industry and producing consistent, high-quality medicine," Neil Closner, CEO of MedReleaf, said. "With this agreement, we look forward to making our award-winning strains available as the trusted provider of premium cannabis-based pharmaceutical products to the largest pharmacy retailer in Canada."

Shoppers Drug Mart announced that it would be applying for a medical marijuana production license in October of 2016. Approval from Health Canada is still pending, but this deal would allow for both MedReleaf and Aphira-branded medical cannabis products to be sold online, as Canadian regulations currently restrict the sale of medical cannabis in retail pharmacies.

Last November, a poll commissioned by the Ontario Pharmacists Association found that 70% of Canadians believe pharmacists should be involved in dispensing medical cannabis to patients. A 56% of those surveyed said they preferred medical marijuana to be dispensed by a pharmacist over other delivery methods and 75% of those polled would prefer to receive the product from a pharmacist in order to receive advice and counseling, the organization said. 

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Holiday sales set record for dollars spent

BY Marianne Wilson

Retailers have plenty to cheer at the beginning of the new year.

Holiday sales increased 4.9% in 2017, setting a new record for dollars spent, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. It was the largest year-over-year increase since 2011. Online shopping saw large gains of 18.1% compared to 2016, boosted by a late-season rally. (The SpendingPulse report details holiday shopping from Nov.1 through Dec. 24 and covers retail sales across all payment types.)

In-store traffic saw a big rise on Super Saturday (Dec. 23), increasing 20% over year, according to data from Shoppertrak. (Saturday, Dec. 16 and Sunday, Dec. 17, also performed exceptionally well, posting a 2.8% increase in traffic over last year, the company reported.)

“The drastic increase in shopper visits supports our data-backed assertion that Super Saturday’s impact increases based on its proximity to Christmas Day,” Shoppertrak stated.” Last year, with it being more than a week away from Christmas Day last year, the day had less urgency. This year, Super Saturday was only two days away from Christmas Day, and it served as the last full shopping day prior to Christmas, motivating shoppers to get out and hit the stores.” last year,

Although it was a winning holiday season for retail overall, the story was different category by category, according to Mastercard. Electronics and appliances increased 7.5%, the strongest growth of the last 10 years. The home furniture and furnishings category grew 5.1%, as did home improvement.

Specialty apparel and department stores, which both traditionally see the bulk of sales happen in-store, saw moderate gains. This is particularly impressive given recent store closings, Mastercard noted.

Additional findings of the Mastercard SpendingPulse report include:

  • Retailers’ heavy early-season promotions paid off, with the first three weeks of November seeing significant jumps.
  • In addition, shoppers were still spending late into the season, with Dec. 23 next to Black Friday in terms of single-day spending. This was a boon to certain categories, including jewelry. Jewelry grew 5.9%, largely driven by last-minute sales.

“Overall, this year was a big win for retail,” said Sarah Quinlan, senior VP of Market Insights, Mastercard. “The strong U.S. economy was a contributing factor, but we also have to recognize that retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers were the beneficiaries of this sales increase.”

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