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Walgreens taps veteran to head CCR

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. Signaling its determination to continue the aggressive rollout of its new, more customer-focused store design and merchandising strategy, Walgreens named 20-year company veteran Mike Arnoult to the post of VP Customer Centric Retailing. Arnoult, who begins his post immediately, replaces Chong Bang, who left the company Dec. 18 to become SVP merchandising at Shoppers Drug Mart.

Arnoult, who last served as head of online merchandising, will head up the chain’s fast-expanding CCR project, and oversee its expansion to nearly 3,000 stores by the end of the calendar year. He will report to VP merchandising Bryan Pugh.

Launched in late 2008 as part of a massive, top-to-bottom overhaul of Walgreens’ business and marketing strategies, CCR was designed to better coordinate the chain’s sprawling merchandising and buying activities to better meet and anticipate customer demands, cut bloated inventories and improve front-end turnover and sales. The effort has led to a significant reduction in the SKU count and product redundancies in Walgreens’ store prototype, a major realignment of categories and adjacencies at the front end, and an ongoing effort to align the chain’s purchasing and store presentation with localized consumer demand.

Arnoult will take the reins of one of Walgreens’ highest-priority projects. By late 2009, the 7,147-store retail giant had rolled the CCR format into 400 stores, mostly in Texas, and was tracking consumer acceptance of the redesigned store format and shopping experience.

“Customer response to the initiative, designed to improve the overall shopping experience and increase both the number of customer visits and basket size, has been positive,” Walgreens noted.

In a statement, the company credited Arnoult for his “knowledge and experiences [that] will allow him to continue the successful rollout of CCR.

“His ability to build relationships and collaborate across the organization will be invaluable in this role,” said company spokesperson Tiffani Washington.

For the past year, Arnoult held the role of VP online merchandising.

“Previously he had 19 years of experience in store operations in various management roles as store manager, district manager and store operations vice president,” the company said.

In other personnel moves, Walgreens promoted former director of online operations Miguel Almeida to divisional VP online merchandising, along with his current oversight of multi-channel operations. Jasbir Patel, a 21-year company veteran of operations and merchandising, will be promoted to director and GMM online photo.

Both Almeida and Patel will report to Sona Chawla, SVP e-commerce.

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Rite Aid takes a bite out of obesity; relaunches weight-loss program for New Year

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. Rite Aid is once again teaming up with TV fitness expert Denise Austin and weight-loss experts Lindora Health, and also has added Harvard Medical School to the mix in the relaunch of its Rite Weight program in 2010.

At the heart of the program is a free, 16-page weight management guide with information provided by Harvard Medical School, which Rite Aid began to make available this week in more than 4,800 of its stores and online at www.riteaid.com.

The guide is designed as an easy to use resource to help dieters make tough choices and stay honest on a daily basis. Instead of relying on food scales, wallet charts or food “points,” dieters can simply use their hand as a guide for determining proper serving sizes across a variety of food groups; for example, a single serving of cheese (1 oz.) is about one finger’s worth, but for pretzels it’s two open handfuls (2 oz.).

In addition, the guide also coaches dieters on how to measure body mass index and to determine their body shape, as well as how being overweight affects their overall health. Other topics, include, the benefits of even a small weight loss, childhood obesity issues, tips for healthier eating and exercise, as well as how to keep the weight off.

In addition to the guide, Rite Aid customers can also log onto riteaid.com/riteweightplan to sign up for the free Rite Weight Plan. The online weight loss program, developed by Lindora, is designed to help participants lose as much as 10 percent of their body weight in just 10 weeks. The program relies on a series of daily e-mail alerts to promote accountability and provide positive affirmation, as well as personal access to Lindora’s team of weight-loss experts, online weight tracking and food journaling, and meal recommendations and complete menus.

Other online resources available through the program include an easy-to-adapt fitness plan developed from by Austin, nutritional tips for seniors, children and those on-the-go, a guide to understanding nutrition labels, and interactive tools like a BMI calculator and a five-minute risk assessment.

Rite Aid will also look to leverage the expertise of its pharmacists as part of the program, offering dieters personalized advice on nutrition, supplements and how losing weight can lead to significant health benefits including lowering blood pressure and the risk for diabetes.

As part of the initiative Rite Aid is offering a special promotion that rewards customers who purchase $30 or more worth of select diet and nutrition products from Dec. 27 to Jan. 23, with a free $5 gift card through its Single Check Rebate program.

KelloggsDRSNhttp://www.centerstoregrowth.com

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SpendingPulse data suggests U.S. retailers were on Santa’s “nice list” this year

BY Rob Eder

PURCHASE, N.Y. Yes, Virginia; there really was a Santa Claus this year.

At least that’s the story U.S. retailers were getting from early results from MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse data, which showed a 3.6% bump in holiday sales this year.

The data, which excludes car and gasoline sales, measured retail sales across all forms of payment. According to SpendingPulse, the season got a boost from online shoppers and a rise in electronics purchases this year.

Important to note, momentum continued through the final week of the shopping season, even as a massive blizzard across much of the country threw a monkey wrench at retailers on Power Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas, and an even more critical day for retailers than Black Friday. Clearly, the cyberpurchasing made up some of the difference, as despite the massive storm, electronics sales rose 6% in the final week of the season, according to SpendingPulse.

The SpendingPulse data is a bright spot amid other holiday spending reports and prognostications. The National Retail Federation had predicted spending to drop 1% this season. Meanwhile, the International Council of Shopping Centers called for a 2% increase in same-store sales this season.

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