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Walgreens reveals plan to buy 20 stores from Puerto Rico’s Farmacias El Amal

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. Making good on its pledge to aggressively pursue growth by acquiring quality competitors as well as through ground-up store development, Walgreen Co. announced today it will purchase 20 drug stores in Puerto Rico from Farmacias El Amal, a family-owned chain of 61 drug stores based on the island.

The announcement comes just over a week after Walgreens chairman and chief executive Jeff Rein reiterated the company’s increasingly flexible expansion strategy. That strategy, he said at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting Jan. 9, would include aggressively taking advantage of promising buyout opportunities among competitors.

“While organic growth continues to be Walgreens’ primary expansion vehicle, the company is taking advantage of unique opportunities that represent a solid strategic fit,” Walgreens noted in a statement today.

El Amal said it would continue operating its other 41 stores in Puerto Rico. While successfully operating a drug chain on an island that is home to nearly 4 million people is no small feat, especially when you throw into the equation fierce competitors, El Amal has focused on its close relationship with customers as a way to stay competitive. In recent decades, the chain has gained a solid reputation among consumers on the island, but has faced withering competition from Walgreens, which has operated in Puerto Rico since 1960 and already operates 73 stores there.

“This is an excellent opportunity for us to meet the pharmacy needs of more patients in Puerto Rico,” said Rein. “We have a long history on the island and a good understanding of our customers there.

“The agreement also ensures area residents will continue to have access to pharmacy services at these 20 locations,” he added. “El Amal’s customers will see the same employees in the stores and will benefit from the added pharmacy and retail services that Walgreens offers.” 

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, and it is subject to customary closing conditions. The acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter of calendar 2008. 

Walgreens said it would begin converting the stores to its own format and logo as soon as the agreement is finalized.

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Middendorf appointed CFO of Arcadia

BY Antoinette Alexander

INDIANAPOLIS Arcadia Resources, a provider of home health care, medical staff, durable medical equipment and specialty pharmacy services under its proprietary DailyMed program, has appointed Matthew Middendorf as its permanent chief financial officer, effective Feb. 1.

Middendorf succeeds Lynn Fetterman, who has been employed as interim chief financial officer since February 2007. Fetterman will remain with the company through the conclusion of his employment agreement on May 24.

“On behalf of Arcadia HealthCare, I want to thank Lynn for contributing significantly to Arcadia’s turnaround. I am pleased that he will continue to assist us to ensure a smooth transition. We wish Lynn well in his future endeavors,” stated Marvin Richardson, president and chief executive officer of Arcadia. “We are excited that Matt is joining our executive team as Arcadia’s permanent chief financial officer. Together, we will work to build Arcadia’s long-term value and to continue our mission of keeping people at home and healthier longer.”

Middendorf previously served as a consultant to Arcadia HealthCare, providing day-to-day financial and accounting support to the interim chief financial officer and working on special projects for the chief executive officer.

In February 2007, Arcadia Resources acquired all of the membership interests of PrairieStone Pharmacy—a move that completed PrairieStone’s transition from an owner to an operator, manager and service provider to pharmacies. Before being named president and chief executive officer of Arcadia in May 2007, Richard served as president and chief executive officer of PrairieStone.

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NRF panel stresses sustainability

BY Mike Duff

NEW YORK Brenda Mathison, director of environmental affairs at Best Buy laid it out to store operators at the National Retail Federation convention, when she said that, as regards the sustainability issue, “You are not at the table, you are on the menu.”

Becoming proactive on sustainability is critical if retailers are to participate in the development of a greening commercial environment and, at the very least, be prepared for the inevitable rules and regulations emerging all over the globe, said the speakers at NRF’s Creating the “Green”: Protecting the Environment and Your Bottom Line seminar.

Mathison noted that Best Buy is developing a new green initiatives in focus stores that the company gradually will expand as it opens new units. She pointed out that Best Buy is taking a more comprehensive look at green issues. Energy efficiencies, transportation, recycling, green facilities and green products all are elements that Best Buy is incorporating into its sustainability efforts. Critically, Best Buy is building measurement into each element of its green push to provide standards, verification and, ultimately, a way to satisfy observers and its own employees that the company is committed to sustainability as a method of making it not only a better corporate citizen, but a better retailer as well.

Kevin Hagen, director of corporate social responsibility for REI, noted that the sporting good retailer has discovered, through its own sustainability initiatives a range of new opportunities that have made it a more efficient retailer. REI has looked inward as it has sought methods of becoming greener. Although charitable donations have been part of REI’s historic commitment to social responsibility, giving even several million dollars in contribution ultimately doesn’t have nearly as big an impact as spending $300 million in various investments the company has to make as it pursues it business. For that reason, the company has reviewed various practices from building to buying introducing green innovations that sometimes pay off immediately in terms of cost savings and some that will provide long-term returns as REI gets ahead of resource markets and inevitable environmental legislation and regulation.

Justin Doak, manager, LEED Retail Sector, U.S Green Building Council, noted that the group is bringing its preliminary examination of specialized practices to a close. It plans to offer LEED rules tailored specifically to retail in the fall, which not only will provide guidelines for concerned retailers but also will solidify the outlook for cities that are or will adopt LEED concepts as part of their building codes.

Additionally, Suzanne Malec-McKenna, Chicago’s Department of the Environment Commissioner, noted that her city is encouraging innovation across the board from government to retail and putting into place incentives for companies to adopt green practices. In terms of construction, that has included waving permit fees for green building projects. The results already are becoming apparent. She cited the care study of manufacturer F&F Foods, a company that conducted a green redesign project on a 150,000 square foot building. F&F spent $63,000 for an environmental audit and $722,000 for a retrofit. The result was a $296,000 cost savings annually and a pay back time of 2.65 years. The numbers suggest, as did the panelists, that green initiatives can generate returns beyond good will.

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