March National Notes

Walgreens Names Rosalind Brewer CEO

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. named Starbucks Corp. operating chief Rosalind Brewer as its next chief executive, setting her up to be the only Black woman leading a Fortune 500 company. Brewer previously was the CEO and group leader at Starbucks. She also served as CEO of Walmart’s Sam’s Club for five years. Brewer is 58 years old, holds a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College, attended Wharton’s Advance Management Program, and Stanford University’s Director’s College. Brewer has also serves, or has served, on the following on the board of directors:, Starbucks, Lockheed Martin, and Molson Coors.

Amazon publicly backs bill to set $15 minimum wage

In a corporate blog, Amazon affirmed its support for a $15 per hour minimum wage. Amazon asserts the wage increase is good for both employee and employer. In addition to providing workers with a living wage, Jay Carney, senior VP, Amazon global corporate affairs, said that a minimum wage of $15 is also good for business. In addition, Carney said, “Once we increased our starting wage to $15 an hour, the positive impact on employee morale and retention—and the surge in job applicants—was immediate,” said Carney. “In fact, the month after we raised our starting wage, applications for hourly positions more than doubled. Employees who saw their paychecks increase told us that they had an easier time providing for their families and were able to spend on things like car repairs and home improvement projects. In short, the investments we made in our hourly employees were quickly transferred to local businesses and economies.”
Carney also cited the decision by several other major companies, including Target, Best Buy, and Costco, to increase wages to at least $15 an hour for their employees. In 2019, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos publicly challenged the company’s “top retail competitors” to meet or beat its starting pay and benefits package.
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Private Sector Readies to Vaccinate for COVID-19

According to the Wall Street Journal, the private sector is preparing to vaccinate people for COVID-19. At present, the CDC views the roll-out by hospitals, long term care centers, and health departments as inadequate. Further complicating the issue has been supply bottlenecks, vaccine hesitancy, and complicated methods of signing up to get a shot. Rules will remain in place once retail pharmacies begin to administer vaccines regarding who is as is eligible to get vaccinated at any given time, but it is anticipated additional access points will significantly speed up the process. The WSJ suggests retail pharmacies are part and parcel of the vaccine solution but stress retail pharmacies will be stress tested as they assume a more direct role in making sure Americans get vaccinated.


The nation’s two leading drug chains will bring COVID-19 vaccinations to the retail setting in multiple states. CVS Pharmacy said that on Feb. 11 it would begin offering COVID-19 vaccines at stores in 11 states, with its initial supply of roughly 250,000 doses coming from the federal government. Walgreens said vaccinations would begin Feb. 12 at locations in 12 states, as well as Puerto Rico, New York City and Chicago. Both companies noted that the vaccines would be available only to eligible patient populations based on state and jurisdiction guidelines.

Amazon Tops Record Year With Record Quarter

Amazon’s 2020 sales jumped 44% to 125.5 billion, its final quarter passed $100 billion. Amazon’s net income more than doubled to $7.2 billion, or 14.09 per share, soaring past analysts’ average estimates of $7.34 per. The company spent $4 billion on COVID-19 measures in the quarter.
Outside of its core retail business, Amazon Web Services, the company’s lucrative cloud-computing business, saw its revenue rise 28% to $12.7 billion, missing expectations of $12.83 billion. It represented 10% of Amazon’s total sales, but continues to drive much of the company’s profit.
Amazon said it hired 175,000 new full- and part-time employees in the fourth quarter, more than triple the 50,000 employees it hired in the year-ago period. The company ended its fiscal year with nearly 1.3 million employees across the globe, up 63% over last year.
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Kroger launched a new round of bonuses to thank employees for their work in the pandemic. In addition, the retailer will reward employees for getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The company plans to spend at least $50 million more to thank and reward its associates, including offering a $100 store credit and 1,000 fuel points to its hourly front-line grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center associates. Kroger will also provide a one-time payment of $100 to all associates who receive the full manufacturer-recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
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Grocery Workers Hope for Higher Pay and Vaccinations

In a sweeping NYTs article, grocery workers say the pandemic hasn’t necessarily meant higher wages or an enhanced placement on vaccine priority lists. The New York Times found only 13 states that had started specifically vaccinating grocery store workers. They are Alabama, Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wyoming.

Walmart Ups Supply-Chain Efficiency With RPCs

Reusable Plastic Containers (RPCs) have helped Walmart track assets and facilitate future innovations in product traceability. Walmart has selected IFCO Systems as its exclusive provider of RPCs. According to IFCO, its RPCs use less energy and water and produce less carbon dioxide and solid waste than single-use packaging. They also keep produce fresh longer, are easier to handle and protect produce better than one-way packaging. “IFCO and Walmart share the goal of an efficient, sustainable fresh food supply chain that helps nourish millions of Americans and billions of consumers worldwide,” said Dan Martin, outgoing president of Tampa, Florida-based IFCO North America. “This agreement is a win for IFCO, a win for Walmart, a win for the environment and a win for millions of grocery shoppers across America.”

“Walmart is committed to providing its shoppers with high-quality, safe, nutritious and affordable fresh food produced sustainably,” said Martin Mundo, Walmart SVP, produce and GPS, “Our new agreement with IFCO helps us deliver on that promise by creating a fresh food supply chain that is more efficient and more sustainable from beginning to end.”
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Walgreens and Uber Work Together to get People Vaccinated

Walgreens and Uber have signed an agreement that helps drive equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. This includes Walgreens experience in community care and Uber’s transportation and logistics expertise.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points to many interrelated factors that hinder vaccine access for communities of color, including vaccine hesitancy and lack of access to transportation. Walgreens and Uber are addressing these barriers through the development of educational programs with community leaders and organizations, technology solutions that make it easier to connect people with vaccine appointments, and free transportation to Walgreens vaccine clinics among socially vulnerable communities.

Walgreens and Uber will roll out several initiatives over the coming months as vaccines become available for mass distribution including:
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Target Offers Incentives to Hourly Employees to get Vaccinations

Target is offering its employees up to four hours of pay (two hours for each vaccine dose) to its hourly employees when they get the vaccines. It also will provide all U.S. employees with free Lyft rides — up to $15 each way — to get to and from their appointments if they need it. More than 350,000 part-time and full-time Target workers who will be eligible for the incentives. Target will not require employees to get the vaccine. Target also said it is working with CVS, which has more than 1,700 locations in Target stores, to evaluate the locations with an eye to providing the vaccines to its employees and customers in the future.
Chain Store Age

All in Motion: Target’s Newest Billion Dollar Brand

All in Motion is Target’s newest billion dollar brand. All in Motion reached the billion dollar brand in only one year since the brand was launched. The line includes a wide range of goods for men, women and kids, from hand weights, kettlebells and yoga mats to leggings, sports bras and sweatshirts. It is one of 10 Target private brands that generated $1 billion or more in sales in fiscal 2020.
During the past five years, Target has launched more than 30 private-label brands across a wide range of categories. It rolled out its largest in-house brand to date, the Good & Gather food brand, in September 2019. It was one of four Target private brands that hit $2 billion or more in sales in 2020. The others being Cat & Jack, Threshold and Up & Up.
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CBO Says $15 Minimum Wage Would Cut Employment, Reduce Poverty

Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 could deliver raises for 27 million workers and lift 900,000 Americans above the poverty threshold—but the policy would cost 1.4 million jobs over the next four years, according to a study released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The study has both positive and negative affects and it could be a challenge to convince moderate lawmakers of both parties to offer support. While raising wages for many, the offset is rising prices for many other Americans. This is due to increasing costs for goods and services.

National Grocer Association Opposes $15 Minimum Wage

The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade association representing the independent community supermarket industry, wrote a letter to the House Education and Labor Committee opposing including the $15 minimum wage proposal included in its budget reconciliation package.

“NGA strongly opposes increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour because it would harm small businesses and reduce food access in disadvantaged communities,” the association wrote in a letter to committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott and Ranking Member Virginia A. Foxx.

“While we are willing to support an increase in the federal minimum wage, more than doubling the current hourly rate is impractical for a large portion of NGA’s members, many of whom are small, independent businesses serving lower cost of living geographic regions across the country,” wrote Chris Jones, NGA’s senior vice president of government relations and counsel. “In response to a drastic increase in the minimum wage, many independent supermarkets would struggle to compete or accelerate the pace of automation in their stores and create an unlevel playing field between large and small businesses.”

For a complete text of the letter go to the NGA website.

The committee ultimately approved the reconciliation package by a party-line vote. The measure will be merged into an expected $1.9 trillion economic rescue package, then will head to the full House for a vote. The legislation is expected to pass the House before being taken up by the Senate.

In anticipation of Senate action, yesterday NGA also led a meeting between West Virginia grocers and Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) legislative staff, urging the senator to oppose the $15 minimum wage. As a moderate Democratic senator from a conservative state, Manchin is seen as the potential lynchpin to Senate approval of a $15 federal minimum wage, given the slim Democratic majority. Cason Edwards, co-owner of St. Mary’s Galaxy Food Center, and other NGA members joined the meeting, arguing that a one-size-fits-all federal wage would be devastating to states like West Virginia that have high rates of food insecurity and rely on independent grocers for food access.

As the federal minimum wage continues to be debated in Washington, NGA is urging Congress and the Biden administration to identify a more workable and realistic federal wage policy that allows independent supermarkets to continue to invest in their companies, employees and communities.

Walmart to Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines in 19 States

Walmart will be administering COVID-19 vaccines in their pharmacies through a federal program. Under the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination, 21 national pharmacy partners — including Walmart, CVS — will accept and administer federal allocations of the COVID-19 vaccine. The retailers won’t be receiving vaccines at all of their locations, but instead will participate on a state-by-state and store-by-store basis.
Once Walmart receives allocation from the federal government, it will be administering the vaccine in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Louisiana and Wyoming.
Chain Store Age

Target Reconfigures Executive Team

Target has reconfigured its executive team and it has added a chief growth officer. Christina Hennington has been named executive vice president and chief growth officer. As chief growth officer, she will work across Target’s organization to identify and pursue revenue-generating strategies that deepen the company’s relevancy with current and prospective guests, and reinforce its stronghold as a leading U.S. retailer.

Rick Gomez has been named executive vice president and chief food and beverage officer. Gomez, who has been with Target since 2013, most recently served as the company’s chief marketing, digital and strategy officer. During that time, he led the organization in deepening its relationship with its guests, launched one of the country’s fastest-growing loyalty programs and helped Target achieve industry-leading digital growth. Gomez will leverage the deep expertise he has developed during his time at Target, combined with more than 20 years managing multi-billion-dollar consumer packaged goods brands with MillerCoors, PepsiCo and the Quaker Oats, to further accelerate Target’s food and beverage business, the company said.

Stephanie Lundquist, Target’s former president of food and beverage and a 15-year Target veteran, announced her plans to depart the organization earlier this year. She will remain in an advisory role through spring 2021.

Cara Sylvester has been promoted to executive vice president and chief marketing and digital officer. Sylvester joined Target in 2007. Since that time, she has served in a variety of leadership roles across strategy and merchandising, most recently as senior vice president of home, during which she increased the product category’s digital penetration to a leading position within the company and consistently drove strong sales and market share gains. In her new position, Sylvester will be responsible for deepening affinity for the Target brand across all platforms, furthering the company’s popular loyalty program and in-house media company, and fueling continued digital growth for the retailer.

Katie Boylan has been promoted to executive vice president and chief communications officer. Boylan, who joined Target in 2011, has played a critical role in advancing and protecting Target’s reputation during her more than 10 years with the company. She has been leading the company’s communications function since 2017. Her expanded responsibilities will now include Target’s social responsibility and sustainability initiatives, as well as the company’s philanthropic efforts, including the Target Foundation. Bringing Target’s communications and corporate responsibility functions together will deepen the company’s understanding of evolving stakeholder expectations, bring increased transparency to the work and help the organization drive even more meaningful environmental and social impact.

Once authorized, the rapid COVID-19 test can be fully performed using only a smartphone and a lateral flow assay (similar to an at-home pregnancy test).

Kroger Health has simplified the COVID-19 testing process to make it accessible by anyone with a smartphone. Its smartphone-enabled at-home Gauss COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test Kit is currently awaiting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
The testing technology was developed by Gauss Surgical, a computer vision-focused health care company. Once authorized, it will be the first rapid COVID-19 test that can be fully performed using only a smartphone and a lateral flow assay (similar to an at-home pregnancy test), without involving a laboratory, a telemedicine visit or any specialized electronics. Once approved, Kroger Health expects the at-home rapid antigen test will be available to purchase on the grocer’s website and over the counter at its 2,200 pharmacies nationwide.


CVS Health’s fourth-quarter and full year results were impressive. The company saw fourth-quarter revenues of $69.5 billion and $1.30 in earnings per share. The full-year revenue increased to $268.7 billion, which represents year-over-year growth of 4.6%.

Net income decreased 44.1% for the quarter. The company attributed the decrease primarily to lower operating income and a loss on early extinguishment of debt of $674 million in the quarter, which was partially offset by lower income tax expense primarily driven by the decrease in pre-tax income.
Net income increased 8.5% for the year compared to the prior year which the company said was primarily due to the higher operating income and lower interest expense primarily due to lower average debt in 2020. This was partially offset by an increase in the loss on early extinguishment of debt to $1.4 billion in 2020, compared to $79 million in 2019 and higher income tax expense primarily driven by the increase in pre-tax income.

Kroger COVID Vaccine Scheduler Is Designed to Meet High Demand

Kroger Health’s new vaccine-scheduling tool can manage more than 250,000 requests daily. The tool is new and is designed to handle up to 250,000 requests per day. It can also allow the user to check availability, and make appointments. Kroger Health also rolled out a call center to help with the above-mentioned tasks.
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