June 2021: National News

The U.S. economy appears to have expanded rapidly in the first quarter. Fueled by a flood of federal cash to households and vaccination progress, the nation’s gross domestic product likely grew at a 6.5% seasonally adjusted, annual rate in the first three months of 2021, according to a WSJ survey of economists.


MasterCard SpendingPulse: Trends Point to Recovery

Retail sales remain hot again in April 2021.  This according to Mastercard SpendingPulse which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment. U.S. retail sales excluding automotive and gasoline increased 23.3% year-over-year in April, and 10.8% compared to April 2019. Online sales in April grew 19.9% and 95.6%, respectively, compared to the same periods.


Walgreens, Uber Partnership Rolls out Appointment, Ride Scheduling Feature

Walgreens and Uber were already working together to help people get vaccinated.  Now Uber rolled out a new feature on its app which makes it easier to get a ride and to schedule a vaccine.  Both companies said that as all adults in the United States now are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, they are focused on ensuring that transportation is not a barrier to getting inoculated.

Uber users can now see a “Vaccine” option in the app that allows them to book an appointment at a Walgreens location. Once they enter their zip code and choose an available appointment, they can set up a pickup time and location for their ride to the appointment. The app also will send a push notification about the upcoming ride and appointment.  

Drug Store News

Earnings and Revenue Gains Beat Wall Street forecasts

Amazon, a leading beneficiary of the surge in online shopping during the pandemic, on Thursday reported double-digit sales and earnings gains for the first quarter.

Net sales increased 44% to $108.5 billion in the three months ended March 31, compared with $75.5 billion in the comparable period in 2020. The increase was 41% when the favorable impact from changes in foreign exchange rates are excluded.

Operating income increased to $8.9 billion in the quarter, up from $4.0 billion in last year’s first quarter. Net income increased to $8.1 billion in the first quarter, or $15.79 per diluted share, compared with net income of $2.5 billion, or $5.01 per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2020.


Walgreens Launches Nationwide Same-Day Delivery

Walgreens is making more than 24,000 products in its assortment available in under two hours via contactless, same-day delivery. The new fulfillment method is available via Walgreens.com and the Walgreens app, with no minimum order required. 

The same-day delivery roll-out is the latest in Walgreens’ convenience-focused offerings. Over the past 13 months, it has added curbside and in-store pickup options, expanded its partnership with Postmates and added partnerships for delivery with DoorDash and Instacart

Drug Store News

MeMD Being Acquired by Walmart 

Walmart Health has entered into an agreement to acquire telehealth provider MeMD. The move will allow the retailer to offer virtual care nationwide.  The acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close in the coming months.


Walgreens Survey: COVID Vaccination has Positive impact on Mental Health

An online survey suggests those vaccinated believe it has helped their mental health.  Amongst those who responded, 73% said it has had a positive effect upon their mental health.  Another 67% said it would help their physical health.  Of the approximately 1,500 partially and fully vaccinated who responded, 64% said they felt relieved after getting vaccinated, with thankfulness and optimism rounding out the top three feelings. 


Amazon Enables Online Price Comparison for Medications

Amazon Prime members can now check whether Amazon Pharmacy or a local drugstore has the best price for a prescription order.   With the new Amazon Prime prescription savings benefit, members of the Prime paid loyalty program can search for their medication and compare savings at Amazon Pharmacy and the over 60,000 retail pharmacies nationwide where the Prime savings card is accepted. According to Amazon, the Prime prescription savings benefit saves members up to 80% off generic and 40% off brand-name medications when paying without insurance.

In addition, customers shopping from their Amazon Pharmacy account can now check their insurance co-pay price online before ordering a medication, without needing to call a pharmacy or insurance provider. After providing insurance and prescriber information, customers logged in to Amazon Pharmacy can request an expected co-pay directly from the medication information page. 

The Prime prescription savings benefit is administered by Inside Rx. According to Amazon, average savings based on usage and Inside Rx data as compared to cash prices for all generics are 78%; with average 37% savings for select brand medications.

Chain Store Age

Target: Plant-Based Grocery

Target is doubling down on Good & Gather plant-based products.  They are launching Good & Gather Plant Based, a new line featuring plant-based creations such as non-dairy chocolate flavored mousse dip, crispy chick’n tenders, savory buffalo-style cauliflower wings and more.

The new line is designed to bring satisfying, plant-based goodness to breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between with more than 30 products, including dips, flavor-packed spreads and silky creamers that join existing Good & Gather plant-based guest favorites such as meatless patties and almond milk. Plus, Good & Gather Plant Based offers value, with most items priced under $5.

Progressive Grocer

Amazon, Walmart are Top E-Commerce Retailers

Amazon is number one, and Walmart in number two in e-commerce sales.  Both companies grew their online sales in 2020 due to a pandemic shift to online sales.  Best Buy ranks fifth, Target ranked sixth, Home Depot ranked seventh, and Kroger ranked eighth.

Retail Leader  

Walmart 1st Food Retailer in Canada to Earn Beef Sustainability Certification

Walmart Canada is now sourcing beef from certified sustainable farms and ranches according to standards set by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB), it’s also sourcing a large enough quantity of this beef for its Your Fresh Market brand patties that it has been granted permission to include a sustainability certification label on each package. Walmart is the first grocery retailer in Canada to achieve this milestone.

Walmart Canada sources 100% of its beef in the country. According to the company, Canadian beef producers manage and help preserve 35 million acres of native grasslands in Canada. Grazing cattle there contributes to preserving critical habitat for wildlife and birds, including more than 60 species at risk. The new CRSB claim represents an opportunity for a whole-system transformation and continued progress across the beef supply chain.

The CRSB’s Certified Sustainable Beef Framework, known as CRSB Certified, was developed to recognize sustainable practices through third-party certification, support sustainable commitments for retail and foodservice companies, and build consumer trust through credible, science-based claims about sustainable beef production in Canada.

Progressive Grocer

Kroger, Target, Walmart Drop Mask Mandate

Kroger dropped its mask mandate, and is operating according to CDC guidance.  The nation’s largest grocery store retailer announced that, starting May 20, fully vaccinated customers and “most” fully vaccinated employees no longer need to wear a mask in its stores, distribution centers, plants and offices — unless required by state or local jurisdiction. In line with the CDC’s guidance for health care settings, employees in Kroger pharmacy and clinic locations will still be required to wear a mask.

Kroger was joined by Walmart and Target.  Walmart announced its change in a memo, saying that  fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can shop without a mask in its namesake and  Sam’s Club stores, effective immediately. It also said that fully-vaccinated Walmart employees will no longer be required to wear a mask at work, (unless required by ordinances).  The policy applies to the chain’s stores, clubs, distribution centers, fulfillment centers and offices.   


Target has Blowout Quarter

Target Corp. had a record-breaking first quarter as shoppers flocked to its stores and sales of its owned-brands reached an all-time high.

Target is on track to open more than 30 stores this year. It has more than 30 full remodels slated for completion in the second quarter and more than 100 planned for the back half of the year,” 

The discounter’s net income jumped to $2.097 billion, or $4.17 per share, from $284.0 million, or $0.56 per share, in the year-ago period. Excluding items, the retailer earned  an all-time high of $3.69 per share, blowing past the $2.21 per share expected by analysts.

Sales rose 23% to $23.88 billion, also ahead of estimates. Comparable-sales rose 22.9% with stores up 18% and digital comp sales up 50%. Basket size grew by 5%. Target said its owned brands experienced a record 36% sales growth. 

Same-day services, including order pickup and drive-up, increased 90% year-over-year. Drive-up services had the biggest growth, rising 123%.  Store fulfilled more than three quarters of Target’s digital sales 


Walmart Goes Big

Walmart blew past earnings expectations in the first quarter of 2021, reporting a same-store sales increase of 6%. The retail giant reported first quarter revenue of $138.3 billion, an increase of $3.7 billion, or 2.7% from the year prior. Operating income during the first three months of the year increased 26.8%. Total net income reached $2.73 billion, or $0.97 per share. Adjusted earnings per share of $1.69 exceeded analysts’ expectations of $1.21 and the $1.118 figure from a year ago.


Target: Pickup/Drive-up/Same Day Delivery

Target is adding beer, wine, hard seltzers and other alcohol beverages will soon be available via order pickup and/or drive up at more than 1,200 Target across the country and via same-day delivery with Shipt at more than 600 locations. The rollout follows successful pilots in California, Florida and South Dakota in 2020.

The expanded selection will be available via order pickup and/or drive up in 29 states across the country by the end of the month, and for same-day delivery where local laws allow. 

Customers will have to use their digital cart and verify their age prior to pickup or delivery.


Amazon Prioritizes Employees’ Safety With $300M Investment

Amazon wants to be “Earth’s Safest Place to Work.” As a result Amazon has launched WorkingWell, a new program providing employees with physical and mental activities, wellness exercises, and healthy eating support that are scientifically proven to help them recharge and re-energize, and ultimately reduce the risk of injury.

Similar to other fulfillment jobs, about 40% of work-related injuries at Amazon are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which include sprains or strains caused by repetitive motions, and they’re more likely to occur among newer employees, many of whom might be working in a physical role for the first time. Pilots of the WorkingWell program have reduced these injuries and have had a positive impact on regular day-to-day activities for employees outside of work. According to the company, this program — along with other company initiatives focused on early MSD prevention — helped decrease MSD-related injuries by 32% from 2019 to 2020.

By the end of 2021, WorkingWell will expand to cover all of Amazon’s operations network in the United States, with the aim of cutting recordable incident rates by 50% by 2025.


Food Supply Chains Stretched

As Americans head back to restaurants food supply chains are once again stretched.  This is due, in large part, to the quick return of those previously afraid to eat out.  Supply chain experts call this the bullwhip effect wherein operations seek to ramp up quickly and put pressure on all aspects of the supply chain.  Restaurants are seemingly on the end of the whip and experience the full effect from shortages of menu items, erratic delivery, and increased costs. 


Walgreens Marks Red Nose Day

Walgreens teamed up with actress Jordana Brewster to raise awareness of child poverty and help raise funds to combat it as part of this year’s Red Nose Day efforts. The retailer noted that in 2020, childhood poverty in the United States rose as high as 21.4% amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Red Nose Day, which was May 27 this year, began in the United States in 2015, with millions of people supporting Red Nose Day’s fundraising efforts in the ensuing years.  Partner organizations Which benefit from donations are the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Children’s Health Fund, Covenant House, Start Early, City Year, Feeding America, the International Rescue Committee, Brotherhood SisterSol and Amref. 

Drug Store News

Kroger’s Retail School

Kroger is helping other retailers, inclulding its competitors, with best retail practices.  This in an effort to improve the retail industry.  Help comes in the form of a manual and includes everything from pandemic lessons to resources for small businesses.  Why is Kroger doing this?

The giant retailer understands that lifting all stakeholders — including suppliers, employees, customers and even competitors — benefits the industry and solidifies its own leadership position. 

Drug Store News

Kroger Exec Joins Global Food Safety Initiative’s Steering Committee

Howard Popoola, VP, corporate food technology and regulatory compliance at The Kroger Co., has been appointed at the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).  He has been appointed as committee co-chair and will represent members of the retail coalition. 

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 600 million people around the world – almost one in 10 – fall ill after eating contaminated food each year, and concerns over food safety have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To tackle this, coalition members are addressing challenges facing food safety systems in their supply chains and the markets in which they operate, and are helping to raise the food safety bar globally. 

Progressive Grocer

Amazon to Buy MGM Studios

Amazon is acquiring MGM Studios for $6.5 billion in an attempt to bulk up Prime Video and in attempt to compete with Netflix and Disney.  The deal also includes debt bringing the total price to $8.45 billion.  However, this is not Amazon’s largest acquisition.  In 2017 they paid $13.7 billion to buy Whole Foods.


Walmart, AT&T Help More People Access Internet

Walmart and AT&T are working together through a program that expands wireless broadband options to people in underserved communities.

Walmart and AT&T have teamed up to offer eligible customers select home internet and wireless plans via AT&T Prepaid and Cricket Wireless for little or even no cost. The offers are available through the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a temporary federal government program that provides eligible customers a temporary benefit of up to $50 a month on eligible home internet or wireless service. The plans are available in more than 2,300 Walmart stores and on the chain’s website.

Chain Store Age

Kroger Health to Launch #CommunityImmunity $5 Million Giveaway to Encourage Vaccinations

Kroger Health, the healthcare division of The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), is launching a new effort to incentivize more Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The #CommunityImmunity giveaway campaign will start in early June and provide individuals, including customers and associates, the opportunity to win life-changing prizes like one of five $1 million payouts and 50 chances to win free groceries for a year.

The program comes after a collaboration with the Biden Administration to encourage increased vaccinations as part of the national push to have at least 70% of U.S. adults with at least their first dose by July 4.

“The faster we reach community immunity, the sooner we can all get back to enjoying backyard barbecues, live music and gathering for special occasions,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO. “We greatly appreciate President Joe Biden’s leadership and partnership with the private sector to increase vaccinations among the U.S. population, especially people of color and individuals under age 30. As an employer, grocery provider, and community partner, the #CommunityImmunity giveaway is another way we are doing our part to help America recover from the public health crisis and safely return to normal.”

Kroger Health organization’s pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and healthcare technicians have distributed more than 4.6 million COVID-19 vaccines — and that number continues to grow daily.

Kroger Health will announce prizes, official rules, and eligibility next week for the #CommunityImmunity giveaway. Prizes will include five $1 million giveaways for a total of $5 million and 10 free groceries-for-a-year giveaways each week for five weeks, totaling 50 winners.

“To vaccinate more Americans and help bring this pandemic to an end, we all have to do our part, and it’s exciting that Kroger is using innovative tactics to encourage vaccinations among its millions of customers across the country,” said Ian Sams, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “Businesses like Kroger are stepping up to the plate to encourage vaccinations, as we pursue President Biden’s goal of having 70% of adults with at least their first dose by Independence Day.”

Kroger Newsroom