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CDC reports increase of influenza-like illnesses this summer

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA Incidence of influenza-like illnesses continued to track higher than normal for this time of year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday, and picked up in the two weeks before that. For the week ended Aug. 22, influenza activity was either stable or increasing in some areas. For example, activity has been increasing in the Southeast, based on influenza-like illness data reported by healthcare providers, the agency stated.

To date, total influenza hospitalization rates for adults and children are similar to or lower than seasonal influenza hospitalization rates depending on age group. The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) was low and within the bounds of what is expected in the summer.

Most state health officials are currently reporting regional or sporadic influenza activity. Two states (Alaska and Georgia) and Puerto Rico are reporting widespread influenza activity at this time. Any reports of widespread influenza activity in August are very unusual, the agency noted.

The predominant virus strain identified thus far is the 2009 novel H1N1 influenza A viruses. The viruses remain similar to the viruses chosen for the 2009 H1N1 vaccine that is expected to be available mid-October and remain susceptible to antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza with rare exception.

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Rite Aid founder succumbs to cancer

BY Michael Johnsen

HARRISBURG, Pa.

Rite Aid founder Alex Grass passed away Thursday night after a 10-year battle with lung cancer, The Patriot News reported online Thursday night.

Grass opened his first drug store in 1962, under the moniker Thrif D Discount Center, in coal-mining town Scranton, Pa, where Grass was born. First year sales totaled $750,000. That 1,700-square-foot health and beauty aids store marked the beginning of the drug chain that would be renamed Rite Aid in 1968, the year of the company’s first public stock offering. Rite Aid offered 350,000 shares at $25 per share then, fielding 22 locations in central Pennsylvania.

Grass retired from the day-to-day operations of Rite Aid in 1995, ceding the chairmanship of Rite Aid to his son Martin Grass. He exited the Rite Aid board in 2001.

He was named to Drug Store News’ REX (Retail EXcellence awards) Retailer Hall of Honors in recognition of his lifetime achievements in the druggist industry in 1996.

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NACDS Webinar offers retailers strategies for surviving the downturn

BY DSN STAFF

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores Retail Advisory Board hosted a Webinar Tuesday featuring speaker Thom Blischok, president of consulting and innovation, for Information Resources Inc., discussing the changing paradigm of today’s cash-crunched shopper by way of its NACDS ECON09 program.

The bottom line — today’s shopper is predominantly buying less and will continue to buy less for the foreseeable future. So the strategy is to position your company against that new shopping paradigm, Blischok suggested.

In his closing remarks, Blischok outlined five strategies for both retailer and supplier:

  • Simplify the shopping experience (78% of shoppers want this, Blischok said). As today’s consumer is bombarded with messaging and discounting, the retailer/supplier who makes the shopping trip easy ought to come out a winner;
  • Redefine end-to-end shopper communication. Online media, including social media sites like Twitter or Facebook, not only continues to gain in popularity, but serves as a growing source for information for today’s consumer. “Social media plays a major role in influenced-based marketing,” Blischok said;
  • Recognize and capitalize on changing rituals now. Rituals such as more and more consumers making up a shopping list at their kitchen table (with the laptop very likely opened to Facebook and other Web sites right next to them). Retailers or suppliers may want to seek out ways to get on that shopping list in the first place instead of attempting to convert an impulse purchase at the store;
  • Focus on familiar products. Primarily because trial outside of trusted name-brands is somewhat inhibited right now, Blischok suggested; and
  • Prepare for a new conservative shopper long-term. Because the dollar-saving shopping behaviors consumers are learning today are not likely to fade even after the economy begins its recovery. The conservative shopper buys less and more carefully, Blischok said.

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