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Wegmans dedicates part of Web site to new Va. store

BY Michael Johnsen

WOODBRIDGE, Va. Wegmans Food Markets launched a new online experience for future customers of its new store in Woodbridge, Va., scheduled to open in June, the chain announced Wednesday.

“We have always dedicated a section of our web site to our new stores,” stated Jo Natale, Wegmans’ director of media relations. “But this new approach gives us even greater capabilities and allows customers to experience Wegmans in a new way.” The ‘microsite’ can be reached in two ways: it is linked from the homepage of www.wegmans.com, the company’s web site; or it can be reached directly at www.wegmans.com/newstores.

Scott Fien and Lynne Freeman, of Wegmans’ employee communications department, guide a tour of the site that features a clock counting down the hours, days, minutes and seconds until the new store opens on June 8 at 7 a.m. Customers can register in advance for a Shoppers Club card, and if signed up by May 31, will receive by mail a free copy of Wegmans Menu magazine and a coupon for a free bottle of Wegmans Basting Oil. The most unique feature is a series of video clips to give those who have never shopped at Wegmans a glimpse inside the store. The final clip entitled ‘Catch the Excitement’ captures the experience of opening day at the supermarket where thousands have been known to line up in the pre-dawn hours before the store opens its doors. Wegmans employees can be seen doing the Wegmans cheer, a tradition that precedes every store opening.

Other sections of the site provide directions to the store (both written and mapped), introductions to store employees, a map of the new store’s layout, and the ability to apply for a job on line. Wegmans anticipates that thousands of people will visit the new on-line destination between now and opening day.

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Duane Reade announces total sales increase for Q1

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK Duane Reade announced on Tuesday that it narrowed its first quarter net loss as total sales rose 3.1 percent to $427.1 million as new chairman and chief executive John Lederer expressed optimism in Duane Reade’s potential.

Filling the top spot vacated by Rick Dreiling in late January, Lederer, from 2001 to 2006, served as president of the Canadian supermarket chain with more than 1,000 corporate and franchise stores under various operating banners. During his 30-year career at Loblaw and its subsidiary companies, Lederer has held a number of senior positions throughout the organization, including executive vice president responsible for merchandising, operations and profit performance of all Loblaw businesses in eastern Canada.

In a conference call with analysts to discuss its first quarter results, Lederer said he has spent his time absorbing and learning more about the company by visiting stores to talk with customers and employees.

He said the changes that have taken place within the Duane Reade under the direction of Dreiling are tangible and sustainable and there is a strong foundation on which to build.

That is not to say that challenges do not exist. Lederer told analysts that the business has and will continue to evolve and the shifts in management undoubtedly add some uncertainty. In addition, the company may face such headwinds as the macro economic conditions creating challenges for many retailers. However, he stressed that business will continue as usual so the stride will not be broken. Lederer said he wants the transition to be seamless and wants to maximize Duane Reade’s potential.

Looking ahead, the company will develop additional initiatives to elevate the brand and the business but Lederer did not discuss details.

Total sales rose 3.1 percent to $427.1 million from $414.4 million in the year-ago period. Same-store sales rose 4.5 percent, while front-end same-store sales rose 7 percent. Pharmacy same-store sales increased 1.5 percent.

Front-end sales, which benefited from the earlier timing of the East holiday by 0.5 percent, were driven by strong sales of food and beverage categories, OTC products, and health and beauty care items.

Net loss for the quarter totaled $21 million compared with $30.5 million in the prior year. The operating loss was $4.1 million compared with $14.9 million in the year-ago period.

For 2008, the company reaffirmed its guidance of adjusted FIFO EBITDA in the range of $90 million to $95 million driven by net retail store sales, excluding pharmacy resale activity, in the range of $1.72 billion to $1.736 billion. Total same-store sales are expected to grow between 3.3 percent to 4.3 percent.

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Proffer leaves Longs

BY Doug Desjardins

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. Longs Drug Stores director of investor relations Phyllis Proffer left the company earlier this month, a company spokesman confirmed.

No reason was given for Proffer’s departure and Longs is currently looking for someone to fill the position. Proffer had been with Longs since August 2003 when she joined as director of investor relations and public relations.

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