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Rite Aid to close Ga. distribution center

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. Rite Aid on Thursday announced that it is closing its distribution center in Newnan, Ga. in late September.

“We have an excellent and dedicated workforce at the distribution center in Newnan, and they did an outstanding job during the integration of the Brooks/Eckerd drug store chain into Rite Aid,” stated Wilson Lester, Jr., Rite Aid SVP supply chain.  “This closing has no reflection on them or the quality of their work, and we will do everything we can to assist them with finding new positions.”

Rite Aid acquired the Newnan facility in June 2007 with its purchase of approximately 1,800 Brooks Eckerd stores and six distribution centers. The company reported at the time of the acquisition that once all of the Brooks/Eckerd stores were integrated into Rite Aid, it would look for opportunities to consolidate the distribution activities of its 14 distribution centers.  The decision to close the Newnan facility is also part of Rite Aid’s initiative to improve operational efficiency throughout the company.

The 194 stores served by the Newnan distribution center will be served by other Rite Aid distribution centers.

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H-E-B taps T.V. star for green campaign

BY Allison Cerra

SAN ANTONIO, Texas H-E-B has teamed up with “Desperate Housewives” actress Eva Longoria Parker to launch a 30-second TV commercial encouraging shoppers to go green.

The ad will debut Wednesday as part of H-E-B’s Earth Day campaign and will run throughout April. During the campaign, shoppers also will be able to buy a limited-edition Eva Longoria Parker reusable bag, selling for $1.49.

“We believe that H-E-B’s continuous work to care for the environment not only makes us better neighbors, it makes us a stronger business,” says Cory Basso, H-E-B group VP marketing and advertising. “Promoting the reusable ‘green’ bags is just one small part of what H-E-B does for the environment; from minimizing our use of natural resources and minimizing wastes, to recycling, conserving energy and protecting the air quality.”

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Walgreens visionary Vern Brunner loses cancer battle

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. Merchant extraordinaire Vern Brunner once described his boss, former Walgreens chairman and CEO Dan Jorndt, as “a good listener, a great idea guy and a great merchant” with “spectacular people skills,” as well as “a firm believer in technology and the importance of information.”

All those words of praise could just as easily have described Brunner himself. One of retailing’s most popular and highly regarded merchandising visionaries, Brunner died Wednesday morning at the age of 68 after a long battle with cancer.

Walgreens issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon confirming Brunner’s passing and praising the former executive.

“Walgreens wouldn’t have reached its market-leading position without Vern Brunner. He was a marketing genius with an amazing work ethic and a great many friends both at and outside of Walgreens,” the company noted. “He was as generous as he was talented, and he’ll be missed by many.”

A gentle bear of a man who combined an imposing physical presence and a sharp intellect with a respectful, good-humored manner that instantly put people at ease, Brunner was a career Walgreens employee. He retired in January 2001 as EVP marketing, relinquishing that post to future president and CEO Jeff Rein after a 39-year career with the company. During his long tenure, he was the architect of many of the elements of data-driven but intuitive merchandising and marketing that sparked the company’s remarkable resurgence and rise to national retail leadership in the 1970s and 1980s.

Brunner earned numerous accolades for his role in Walgreens’ remarkable success over the past three decades, including the Robert B. Begley Award from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and REX Retail Merchant of the Decade by Drug Store News.

Upon his retirement from Walgreens in 2001, Brunner was lauded by those who had worked with him, both inside and outside of Walgreens. Among those honoring him was Dan Jorndt, who said Brunner had “a major impact on the overall success of Walgreens for nearly four decades.

“We wouldn’t be in our current, market-leading position without him,” said Walgreens’ former CEO. “Walgreens and its customers have benefited greatly from Vern’s perceptive, intelligent, creative approach to marketing and merchandising.”

Brunner began at Walgreens as a pharmacy intern in 1962, moving into store management two years later. After serving in district management, he was promoted to director of store merchandising in 1975. By 1982, he was senior vice president of marketing, and rose to executive vice president in 1989 and company director the following year.

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