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Boston offers retailers a tale of 2 strategies

BY Carol Radice

The largest city in New England, Boston and its surroundings have been fortunate to experience sustained economic growth in recent years. An influx of high-profile firms and a real estate market-building boom are two factors influencing that growth. As a major regional employment center, Beantown’s job growth rate is outperforming state and national averages. In fact, employment levels recently reached their highest levels since the data started being collected in the late’60s.

With a strong commercial sector, it has the third-highest jobs per square mile in the nation after San Francisco and New York City.

Boston has a large share of highly-skilled, educated workers. In fact, 19% of the area’s workers are employed in the healthcare and social assistance industries, with five of the 10 largest employers in Boston being hospitals, but it is the professional/scientific/technical services and finance/insurance industries that have been adding the most jobs in the past four years. While growth may be exceeding expectations, forecasts suggest there could be a slowdown in the next two years.

While often labeled a compact city, its metro region spans five counties in Massachusetts and two in New Hampshire.

Boston attracts a high percentage of young adults due to its low unemployment, walkability, public transportation and low crime, but those factors also make it an expensive place to live.

Boston’s real estate market remains hot, with the volume of construction at historic levels and of one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the country, making it a struggle for many to afford to live here. City officials currently are adding nearly 8,000 new housing options to alleviate some of these issues.

Given the dichotomy that exists among Boston’s population, it is not a big surprise that the two retail names most frequently mentioned represent two divergent market approaches — one more upscale and the other with appeal to the cost-conscious.

Wegmans is well-known in the northeast for its super clean, well-lit stores featuring wide aisles, a professional atmosphere and quality offerings. It recently added two locations in the Boston-metro area, one in Natick and the other in the Newton Nexus Shopping Center in Newton.

Customers love the assortment and often rate Wegmans’ store brands as top-notch. They also enjoy the prepared foods, which are often described as restaurant quality or better, although a little pricey. Its Medford location even features a full liquor offering, cheese cave, burger bar and pizza-to-order station.

Customer service is a level above most, customers said. Wegmans’ staff is often cited for being attentive, friendly, happy, positive and willing to do whatever it takes to satisfy its customers, all with a smile on their face. Others appreciate the ease the Wegmans app offers, showing prices, arranging items by aisle to make the shopping trip more efficient and keeping track of purchases.

Another heavily shopped retailer in the area is Market Basket. With its no-frills atmosphere, retro interior decor, focus on perishables, well-stocked shelves and strong owned private-label offerings, this retailer is a big hit for those in the Boston-metro area looking to save money on their grocery bills. Shoppers also love Market Basket’s comprehensive, deep mix and varieties not found at other retailers.

While the prices are exceptionally good, many people said they shop Market Baskets because of its customer service. The staff is often described as courteous and knowledgeable, and its shoppers like the fact that the staff is visible and easily accessible.

As many price-focused companies have done, Market Basket limits its store hours. Company officials said reducing its operating costs plays a key role in its ability to keep its prices low.

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CVS Pharmacy acquires Red Cross Pharmacy’s 14 stores

BY David Salazar

CVS Pharmacy is acquiring all 14 of the retail pharmacies operated by Marshall, Mo.-based Red Cross Pharmacy, effective June 6. CVS Pharmacy said that it would be transferring files from stores in Grain Valley and Kearney, with the remaining locations set to remain operating in the same locations with the same staff.

“All along, our mission has been to be the best employee-minded, patient-focused pharmacy service driven pharmacy organization,” Red Cross Pharmacy president and CEO Scott Hartwig said. “While I believe we have done a great job in accomplishing this, it has become increasingly difficult to provide quality pharmacy care under the current payment model. It is time to pass our retail business to a company with more resources that can take it to the next level of care.”

CVS Pharmacy said the acquisition would be completed in mid-July, with the locations rebranded and converted to CVS Pharmacy banners. It added that it expects to retain nearly all of the company’s 170 retail pharmacy employees.

“CVS Pharmacy looks forward to bringing its innovative pharmacy care programs and services to Red Cross Pharmacy patients in Missouri,” CVS Pharmacy region director Wayne Lum said. “We will continue to provide excellent care to patients and look forward to introducing our industry-leading offerings at these new locations.”

With Red Cross Pharmacy’s retail pharmacy operations sold, the company is left with two long-term care pharmacies and a medical equipment company.

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Health Mart boosts flu shot offering with PrescribeWellness

BY Michael Johnsen

PrescribeWellness inked a five-year partnership with McKesson that will provide mutual members with expanded access to VaccineComplete and Collaborative Practice Agreements. The expanded scope of the program will offer Health Mart franchise pharmacies broadened revenue streams and opportunities to better serve patients through enhanced clinical services, particularly the administration of vaccines.

“Millions of Americans are not properly immunized each year, but the combined scale of PrescribeWellness and Health Mart pharmacies has the ability to change that,” Al Babbington, CEO of Irvine, Calif.-based PrescribeWellness, said. “Once limited to filling prescriptions and dispensing drugs, pharmacists are increasingly providing direct care to patients. Armed with the tools they need to go ‘beyond the fill’ to deliver vaccines and other important clinical services, pharmacists make a real difference in the health and well-being of their communities.”

“After performing a competitive analysis and speaking with our members, it became clear they were looking for a defined process and vaccine program support that would allow them to engage with the community and grow their revenue stream,” Lisa Petersen, McKesson retail vaccine program manager, said. “Our partnership with PrescribeWellness provides comprehensive back-end support so our customers can spend more time focused on patient outcomes.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that during the 2016-2017 flu season, the flu shot prevented more than 5 million illnesses, 2 million medical visits and 84,700 hospitalizations, underscoring the benefits and improvements needed in the current vaccination program.

Meanwhile, according to a recent PrescribeWellness survey, 55% of Americans prefer to be immunized at their local pharmacies instead of at the doctor’s office, including 28% of parents, who enjoy the convenience of getting the whole family immunized at once. But most pharmacies miss more than 70% of immunization opportunities.

PrescribeWellness offers a solution for these missed opportunities. With VaccineComplete, pharmacists can see that a patient is due for vaccination so that immunization can be offered during a pick-up visit or proactively invite eligible patients to be immunized with a pre-recorded message. A pharmacy can follow a reliable, state-compliant process to screen and educate patients as well as administer, store and dispose of vaccines.

“Using VaccineComplete, pharmacies can launch and maintain a year-round vaccination offering, which will result in more revenue for the pharmacy and enable them to become a healthcare destination for a wider patient base,” Babbington added.

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