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Weis Markets to acquire Giant Markets

BY Michael Johnsen

SUNBURY, Pa. Weis Markets on Friday announced its plans to purchase the stores of 12 Giant Markets based primarily out of Binghamton, N.Y., by Aug. 21.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“This acquisition is an excellent strategic fit for our company,” stated Weis vice chairman Jonathan Weis. “Giant Markets is the market leader in Broome County where they have excellent locations, modern stores and a strong market presence,” he said. “For many years, they have been a significant part of the community, and they’ve offered an excellent combination of quality, value and service. We are pleased to be working with their associates and look forward to welcoming them to our organization.”

The company’s 12 stores average 62,000-sq.-ft., according to the Giant Markets Web site. The company supplies those stores through one warehouse.

The Giant Markets business first opened its doors in Binghamton in 1933, marking one of the first self-service supermarkets to operate in the region. It’s second store, opened in 1939, was featured as a display in the NCR pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, according to the company’s Web site. The new store was one of the first supermarkets to provide itemized grocery receipts.

The Giant Markets stores are not associated with either of Royal Ahold’s Giant banners, Giant-Carlisle and Giant-Landover; nor are the stores associated with Giant Eagle out of Pittsburgh. None of the Giant Markets stores field a pharmacy.

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Walgreens continues overhaul with purchasing, store changes

BY DSN STAFF

DEERFIELD, Ill. —When Walgreens embarked on a sweeping revitalization campaign last October, the drug store giant promised to overhaul and clean up its merchandise mix, dramatically upgrade its front-store appeal, cut its bloated operating structure and fully integrate its core strengths in pharmacy, health and wellness. Now, those changes are beginning to work their way through Walgreens’ purchasing department and the stores themselves.

On May 6, the company parted ways with three high-profile veterans of its purchasing department—underscoring just how serious it is about shaking up and revitalizing its product mix—and revealed it was on the hunt for fresh thinking in front-store merchandising. Almost simultaneously, Walgreens announced the unveiling of some 35 new or redesigned drug stores by early summer. By this fall, some 400 of the company’s more than 6,700 drug stores will sport the new, slimmed-down prototype, SVP and CFO Wade Miquelon told analysts.

Those departing Walgreens were Bill Hubbs, divisional VP and general merchandise manager for seasonal and sundry; Arnie Silver, DVP and GMM consumables; and Kathy Steirly, DVP and GMM beauty. Their exits are not part of Walgreens’ ambitious plan to cut $1 billion in annual operating costs, spokeswoman Tiffani Washington told Drug Store News, adding that the chain is looking “both internally and externally” for their replacements.

The consumables, beauty and seasonal categories will be overseen by VP purchasing Dave Van Howe and DVP and GMM Robert Tompkins, “until replacements are named,” said Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson.

Walgreens also hired Rachel Bishop as DVP and GMM of strategic planning and analysis. Bishop last served as an associate principal at McKinsey & Co. in Chicago, and “has already started working closely with Chong Bang on the Customer Centric Retailing initiative,” the company announced. Bang, a DVP, was tapped to head that initiative.

The abrupt exit of three key category managers signals more changes ahead in the look and feel of the Walgreens drug store. As the sweeping Customer Centric Retailing project works its way through every nonpharmacy department in the store, customers will see new approaches in everything from beauty and wellness products to toothpaste and batteries.

Company executives say the changes will yield a product mix more trimmed down and condensed, and geared more to the “affordable essentials.” Walgreens merchandisers and category managers are going through every department within the store and have “spent the last seven or eight months really understanding what the shopper wants,” Miquelon said.

The first results of that effort are being seen in the 35 or so test stores Walgreens is debuting over the next few weeks. The new format features a pared back product selection—with SKUs down by 15% to 20%, according to Miquelon—and gondola heights lowered to improve department visibility and sight lines. Walgreens is scrapping many slow-moving and redundant product facings and offering more “affordable essentials,” such as detergent, mouth-wash, shampoo and batteries.

The company also is emphasizing more promotional items in both its product selection and advertising, and grouping those products thematically to make them easier for customers to find. The goal, said company leaders, is to create an easier and more exciting shopping experience and boost average shopping baskets.

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Drug makers scramble to create swine flu vaccine

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK —With more than 5,000 cases worldwide and 61 deaths at the time of publication, H1N1 influenza has caused a pandemic of fear before it even has had a chance to cause a pandemic of illness due to the unusually young age of many of its victims, the impending flu season in the Southern Hemisphere—in which the virus could mutate into a more virulent form—and the lack of a vaccine.

Some drug companies, however, are cranking up their pipelines in an effort to create vaccines and treatments.

Baxter International said earlier this month that it has become part of a pandemic vaccine supply group set up by the World Health Organization. The company has received approval from the European Medicines Agency for the mock-up pandemic vaccine Celvapan, allowing for fast-track approval once the company creates a version of Celvapan that contains the A/H1N1 strain.

Based in Rockville, Md., biotech company Novavax takes a different approach to flu vaccines. In March, the Journal of Virology published a preclinical study of a vaccine from the company that uses virus-like particles developed from the 1918 Spanish influenza strain, also a form of H1N1 influenza, finding that it could protect against both the Spanish flu and the H5N1 avian flu. Using this method, the company said it could produce a vaccine in 10 to 12 weeks rather than four to six months.

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