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Wellness+ does well and then some, while so-so performance from Wellness stores

BY Alaric DeArment

During the question-and-answer session of Rite Aid’s third-quarter earnings call, president and CEO John Standley responded to a question about the Wellness+ loyalty card program by saying, “We continue to try and evolve and grow the program. We’re obviously learning a lot as we go."

(Click here to read the story.)

Considering that Wellness+ predates the Wellness store format, it’s safe to say that the same is true for the new format, which Rite Aid introduced this summer and plans to have expanded to 300 stores by the end of fiscal 2012.

As Standley put it, some of the stores are “way up,” while others aren’t doing so well, and overall, the stores’ performance doesn’t seem to be where management would like it, though the company appears optimistic. While the Wellness stores have many innovative features, new merchandise, new ways of presenting merchandise and a welcoming, open store design, one of the deciding factors in how well they do on an individual basis seems to be the Wellness ambassadors, who could end up being key to the new format’s success in the long term.

By contrast, the Wellness+ loyalty card program has grown in a big way and contributed significantly to the chain’s growth, and true to form, members have proven to be the company’s most loyal customers. Offering new features, such as the new Bronze tier and “wellness rewards,” could help build further loyalty as customers realize incentives to keep going back to Rite Aid stores.

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MinuteClinic, Carolinas HealthCare System ink clinical collaboration

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. and CHARLOTTE, N.C. — CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic has entered a clinical affiliation with Carolinas HealthCare System, which provides medical services at more than 650 care locations in North and South Carolina. The collaboration includes 16 MinuteClinic locations in the greater Charlotte area.

This marks the first such arrangement in North Carolina for the two organizations.

"We are very pleased to have a hand in building a more integrated, coordinated model of health care for our patients through innovative partnerships like this one. By providing medical directors for each of the 16 MinuteClinic locations in the Charlotte area, we’re expanding access to convenient, high-quality health care for people and linking them to more services if additional care is needed," stated Michael Tarwater, CEO of CHS.

Under the agreement, CHS physicians will serve as medical directors for MinuteClinic locations in the Charlotte area, In addition, MinuteClinic and CHS will collaborate on patient education and disease management initiatives and will inform patients of the services each offers. CHS will accept patients who need a level of care that is not provided at MinuteClinic. Signage at MinuteClinic locations will inform patients that each site has a clinical affiliation with CHS.

Also, the two organizations will develop a system by which to share patient care data electronically. In the meantime, MinuteClinic will continue its standard practice of sending patient visit summaries to primary care providers via fax or mail.

"Carolinas HealthCare System consistently demonstrates an outstanding commitment to clinical quality and shares our mission of making medical care more accessible and convenient," added Andrew Sussman, president and SVP/associate chief medical officer of MinuteClinic. "Since opening our first clinics in the Carolinas in 2005, we have continued to grow, including the addition of two new clinics in the Charlotte area this year. This agreement will enhance our service capabilities in locations convenient to where patients live and work."

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Duane Reade continues to raise the bar and reshape retail pharmacy

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — The unveiling of Duane Reade’s transformed store located at 52nd and Broadway is important, as it clearly illustrates the retailer’s continued rebranding and aggressive transformation initiatives, and serves as the latest example of how the retailer is changing the way consumers shop drug stores for consumables.

(THE NEWS: Duane Reade to unveil unique offerings at 52nd and Broadway location. For the full story, click here)

In looking at the neighborhood, executives recognized that it largely serves first tourists, followed by business tourists and some residents, so the store’s unique offerings reflect the needs of those shoppers.

The store also reflects the retailer’s continuation of local sourcing. For example, the new UpMarket Fro-Yo Bar yogurt is all-natural and produced by New York-based Ronnybrook Farms, and the chain has once again partnered with local New York gourmet retailers and such eateries as Zabar’s for fresh food offerings.

Downstairs shoppers will find an assortment of fresh vegetables and fruit, as well an expansive frozen food section, to better meet the needs of nearby residents.

There’s also a Good & Delish oatmeal station, containing three self-serve flavors of fresh instant oatmeal daily — another never-seen-before-offering within a Duane Reade.

Duane Reade, which was founded in 1960 and is the largest drug store chain in New York City, is undoubtedly part of the New York City fabric, and it continues to raise the bar and embark on innovative initiatives that are reshaping the retail pharmacy industry.

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