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Walgreens reports surge in May sales

BY Allison Cerra

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens reported a 6.1% increase in sales for the month of May, from $5.06 billion for the same month in 2008.

Meanwhile, sales in comparable stores (those open at least a year) increased 1%. Comparable store front-end sales increased 0.2%, versus last year’s increase of 6%. May pharmacy sales increased 6.3%, while comparable pharmacy sales increased 1.5%. Comparable pharmacy sales were negatively impacted by 4.5 percentage points due to generic drug introductions in the last 12 months.

Fiscal 2009 year-to-date sales for the nine months were $47.6 billion, up 7.2% from $44.4 billion. Comparable store sales for the fiscal year to date increased 1.9%.

Walgreens opened 43 stores during May, including four relocations, acquired 38 stores and closed three.

At May 31, Walgreens operated 7,361 locations in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. That includes 6,857 drugstores, 605 more than a year ago, including 73 stores acquired over the last 12 months. The company also operates worksite health centers, home care facilities and specialty, institutional and mail service pharmacies. Its Take Care Health Systems subsidiary manages 716 in-store convenient care clinics and worksite health and wellness centers. Franchisees of Option Care, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Walgreens, are not included in Walgreens location or store count.

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Sharpie launches new marketing campaign

BY Allison Cerra

OAK BROOK, Ill. Sharpie is kicking off a new multichannel, multimedia campaign to showcase the iconic marker brand as the advocate for self-expression. Taglined “Uncap What’s Inside,” the campaign launches on June 1 with national print advertising and a new interactive community website, and national TV advertising rolling out June 15.

The goal is to empower people to connect with one another and express themselves by uncapping their creativity with Sharpie.

“The personalization trend is gaining even more momentum as the economy continues to struggle. The new Sharpie campaign challenges people to re-imagine, re-invent and re-create the mundane, everyday items in their lives as a way to express their creativity and embrace value in these tougher times,” said Sally Grimes, global VP marketing for Sharpie.

At the centerpiece of the integrated campaign is new advertising featuring budget-savvy ways Sharpie markers can transform everyday items into colorful, distinctive statements. One print ad features Sharpie Twin Tip Marker as a hero for self-expression by showing how the marker can add color and conviction to a pair of ordinary sneakers.

 

As part of the new campaign, Sharpie is also unveiling the Sharpie Squad, a group of some of the brand’s most passionate fans. The Squad consists of savvy bloggers and creative artists who find inspiration through Sharpie. These Sharpie ambassadors will reveal the many ways to get creative with Sharpie while sharing tips on how to use that creativity in affordable ways. From thrifty trendsetting decorating ideas to frugal fashion tips, the Sharpie Squad will offer advice on how to uncap creativity on a budget. The Sharpie Squad will be featured on sharpieuncapped.com for a continual flow of ideas, inspirations and cost-saving tips.

The “Uncap What’s Inside” campaign highlights several core products in the Sharpie portfolio, including the Sharpie Twin Tip, Sharpie Metallic for holiday and new Sharpie Pen colors (orange and purple joining black, red, blue and green, all with no-bleed ink). Sharpie’s “Uncap What’s Inside” campaign will also include print advertising around the 2009 holidays. More more information, visit sharpieuncapped.com.

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Walgreens’ ‘Power’ initiative expands, centralizing workload in Florida, Arizona

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK Walgreens is serious about cutting its operating costs — nowhere more so than in its pharmacies. It’s no secret that professional salaries are one of the biggest single expense lines in any chain drug store operating budget, and Walgreens brass have made it clear they’re looking to the company’s “Power” initiative to restore some of the profitability to retail pharmacy that PBMs and shrinking prescription dispensing margins have bled out of the industry over the past two decades.

 

Power is a workload-balancing project that offloads dispensing duties from individual Walgreens pharmacists to centralized processing centers. Company leaders predict the project will free pharmacists and even pharmacy technicians from some of the mundane dispensing tasks so they can migrate to a broader role in patient oversight, clinical care and integrated health care alongside physicians, PBMs and corporate health plan sponsors.

 

 

Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson has high hopes for the Power project, even calling it transformative to the practice of pharmacy.

 

 

“We are… removing as many administrative tasks from our stores as we can and moving these to a more efficient, centralized location,” Wasson said earlier this year. “And we are also using our existing mail service facilities to centrally fill prescriptions.

 

 

“With our government and employers… looking to control rising health care costs, we are seeing continued pressure on pharmacy reimbursement,” Wasson added. “As a result, we must lower our pharmacy operating costs while improving service levels. This also allows our pharmacists to play a pivotal role in this nation’s health care reform.”

 

 

In any state where Walgreens centralizes dispensing activities, it will have to first obtain a waiver from state pharmacy regulators to clear away restrictions on the use of remote data entry for prescription filling, Washington confirmed.

 

 

Tellingly, some patient advocates are raising concerns about the impact the central-fill initiative will have on the level of pharmacy care available in the future at Walgreens pharmacies, according to local news reports from Arizona. A story that ran in the Arizona Daily Star, in particular, cites concerns among local pharmacy workers and about possible job losses and leaner staffing levels in local pharmacies.

 

 

A source at Walgreens indicated those fears are overblown and misplaced but acknowledged that some pharmacy staff in Florida, where the company first rolled out its Power central-fill initiative, have chosen not to relocate to the centralized administration and dispensing center in Orlando.

 

 

Nevertheless, fears about fewer pharmacists and lower customer service levels at Walgreens pharmacies in Florida and Arizona seem to miss the mark. They’re an ironic counterpoint to what Walgreens says will be one of the benefits beyond cost-savings that flow from Power: the reducing of administrative burdens on pharmacists so they can spend more of their time serving patients with face-to-face counseling, medication therapy management and other services.

 

 

If it achieves its goals, Power could be a win for both Walgreens and its customers. There will be fewer pharmacists in the stores, but patients may find them more accessible, less stressed — and more willing and able to talk to them about their health questions and other concerns.

 

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