National Notes

January 2021

Pharmacy and Retail Staff First in Line for Vaccines

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) proposed health care personnel and long-term care facility residents — an estimated 24 million people — for Phase 1a of U.S. coronavirus vaccination allocation. That includes health care professionals in hospitals, emergency medical services, pharmacies, outpatient clinics, home health care, and public health and long-term care facilities, as well as residents of skilled nursing and assisted living centers and other residential care facilities.  Supermarket pharmacy staff will be among the nation’s first group of recipients of COVID-19 vaccines, with food industry workers following in the next phase, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel.

This is important.  Accordingly, FMI research show supermarket pharmacies currently provide 20% of the nation’s flu vaccines. Furthermore, with the appropriate resources, supermarket pharmacists will dramatically expand access to COVID-19 vaccinations and rapidly advance our nation’s immunization program.

Super Market News

Walgreens Boots Alliance is escalating its rollout of VillageMD health care clinics.

Walgreens and VillageMD announced plans to open 40 new Village Medical primary care clinics at Walgreens by the end of summer 2021. The expansion is part of the large-scale rollout announced earlier this year to open 500 to 700 Village Medical at Walgreens clinics in more than 30 U.S. markets in the next five years.  To date, expansions are planned in Houston, El Paso and Austin, Texas, Phoenix, Ariz., and Orlando, Florida.  In a statement VillageMD’s CEO said, “In today’s complex healthcare environment, this integrated model of care is more important than ever.”

Chain Store Age

Cyber Monday sales break $10 billion

According to Adobe Analytics, U.S. consumers spent a record $10.8 billion online by the end of Cyber Monday (Nov. 30), an increase of 15 percent year-over-year.  Cyber Monday 2020 stands as the largest online shopping day in U.S. history, beating the previous $9.4 billion record set during Cyber Monday 2019. 

Chain Store Age

Survey: Employers brace for workplace policy changes under Biden administration

A new survey by Littler, an employment and labor law firm, indicates employers are concerned about coming workplace policies.  Half of all employers who participated in the survey say they are concerned.  Of those, 74 percent said they expect changes to paid sick and family leave requirements, healthcare policy 71 percent, immigration 66 percent, and measures to address income inequality at 64 percent. In addition, many respondents say COVID-19 will likely ensure professionals, including C-suite personal, work remotely in the coming year.

Chain Store Age

CVS Health picks Montgomery to lead CVS Pharmacy

CVS Health has named Neela Montgomery executive vice president and president of CVS Pharmacy/retail, effective Nov. 30. Montgomery, who has nearly 20 years’ experience in global retail, will oversee the company’s 10,000 pharmacies. 

Montgomery, currently a board partner at venture capital firm Greycroft, most recently served as CEO of furniture retailer Crate & Barrel, where she transformed its online sales channel to comprise more than 50% of the company’s total revenue. In 2019 she was named to the “Top Women in Retail” list by the Women in Retail Leadership Circle. Prior to Crate & Barrel, she served as group executive board member of the Otto Group, a global retail and services group and one of the leading e-commerce retailers in the world.

Drug Store News

Black Friday Recap 2020

Nobody is surprised the holiday season is different this year.  And, it is no surprise Black Friday was different from normal.  Many retailers spread their discounts over several weeks while online sales grew dramatically.  Again, no surprise online sales grew as they have been expanding since the onset of the pandemic.  Other developments include curbside pickup which increased 52 percent over last year.  On Black Friday, those retailers that offered curbside increased digital sales by 19% over those that didn’t.  Omnichannel capabilities seemingly helped retailers on all fronts.

Marketing Dive

Walmart Names Chief Executive VP of Health & Wellness

Walmart named Dr. Cheryl Pegus executive vice president of Health & Wellness.  In her role she will enhance the strategy of making quality health care more readily available and less costly for American consumers.  Dr. Pegus has served as president of consumer health solutions and chief medical officer at Cambia Health Solutions, as  a private cardiologist, at Pfizer, at Aetna, and at Walgreen’s.  In her many roles she has worked to make care more affordable, and has championed the careers of women and minorities.  She begins her work at Walmart in December 2020.

Mass Market Retailers

CVS Opens Stores to Serve Hispanics

CVS is upping its offerings to Hispanic customers in twelve new stores in New York and New Jersey.  This will involve tailored deals on products they already know.  In addition, they are designed to provide an enhanced, convenient, personalized shopping experience specific to local Hispanic communities.  Stores will incorporate bilingual staff and signage, and is a one-stop shop for more than 1,500 products from trusted Hispanic brands, such as Iberia Foods, Yaucono, Fabuloso, Tio Nacho, Pilon and Café La Llave.

Drug Store News

Consumers Stayed Home on Black Friday but Didn’t Stop Spending

Black Friday weekend broke e-commerce records.  According to different sources consumers stayed home over the weekend and shopped online at record rates. 

Data from Adobe Analytics indicates online spending on Black Friday, Nov. 27 hit a new record with consumers spending $9 billion, an increase of 22 percent year-over-year from $7.4 billion on Black Friday 2019. This is the second-largest online spending day in U.S. history as recorded by Adobe, coming in behind Cyber Monday 2019. 

Black Friday mobile shoppers spent $3.6 billion, according to Adobe Analytics, up 25 percent year-over-year and representing 40 percent of total online spend. In-store and curbside pickup increased 52 percent on Black Friday compared to the same day a year earlier.

Other interesting e-commerce data points from the holiday weekend include:

•    69 percent of Black Friday sales on e-commerce platform Shopify were made via mobile device.
•    The average Shopify Black Friday cart price was $88.60.
•    According to retail marketing technology provider Bluecore, there was a 26 percent average year-over-year increase in online Black Friday orders.
•    Bluecore data indicates an average of 59 percent of retailers’ online Black Friday orders came from first-time shoppers.
•    The week leading into Black Friday, virtual sales platform Salesfloor saw an increase of up to 55 percent year-over-year in sales.

Chain Store Age

Target Shifts From Black Friday Into Cyber Week

In an omnichannel move Target took advantage of the current environment by offering Black Friday Now, a month long event which offered digital discounts on electronics, toys, home décor, apparel, and everyday essentials.  This culminated in Cyber Week and flash sales on Cyber Monday, Nov. 30.  Items were available for same-day pickup, same day-day fulfillment centers, in-store pickup, and by delivery.  Target capped it off by rolling out numerous safety measures including including the number of drive-up spots at stores across the country and eliminating the need for scanning or signatures when picking up orders

Chain Store Age

Kroger Workers Agree to Withdraw From Pension Fund

Employees from 14 divisions have ratified an agreement to pull out of the UFCW International Union-Industry Pension Fund. 

Kroger will pay the National Fund withdrawal liability of $962 million, on a pre-tax basis, to meet obligations for past service for associates and retirees.  Kroger will also make a $27 million contribution to a transition reserve in the new variable annuity pension plan. On an after-tax basis, the withdrawal liability and contribution to the transition reserve come to about $760 million. This withdrawal liability will be satisfied by three years of installment payments to the National Fund. The agreement also establishes a pension benefit formula for Kroger’s contributions to the new plan through June 2028, at which time it will be subject to negotiation with the union.

Progressive Grocer

COVID-19 At-home Test Coming to 1,200 independent Pharmacies

Wheeler Labs at-home test will be offered at more than 1,200 independent pharmacies across the U.S. The test has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration under an Emergency Use Authorization. The test will retail for $130. All patients need to do is go to a local pharmacy and request one from the pharmacist, who will be able to answer any questions. People are then free to take the test home and collect a sample using clear, easy-to-follow instructions.

Drug Store News

Walmart Drops $35 Minimum Charge for Free Shipping

Walmart+ is dropping it’s $35 minimum for free shipping in an effort to take on Amazon Prime.  Grocery orders will, however, still have a minimum charge to get free shipping.  Walmart debuted Walmart+, its $98-a-year subscription plan, in September. In addition to free next-day and two-day shipping, Walmart+ members also get 5-cent-per-gallon discounts on gasoline and the ability to scan items with the Walmart app while they shop in physical stores (and pay without waiting in a checkout line).


Kroger posts 10.9% comp sales gain in Q3

Kroger reported third quarter comparable store sales growth that beat Wall Street expectations, increasing 10.9% (excluding fuel). Digital sales grew by 108%.  Kroger earnings were $631 million, or 80 cents per share. That compares to $263 million, or 32 cents per share, in the prior year period. Adjusted earnings per share came in at $0.71, ahead of the $0.66 that Wall Street analysts were expecting.

Total company sales were $29.7 billion in the third quarter, compared to $28.0 billion for the same period last year. Excluding fuel and dispositions, sales grew 11.3%.

Mass Market Retailers

Walmart pays out bonuses, extends emergency leave policy for workers

Walmart has announced it will extend more than $700 million in additional bonuses to U.S. based employees.  Around 1.5 million will share in the bonuses in two rounds at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  This is the fourth round of bonuses since the pandemic began.  In addition, Walmart will extend pay for reasons related to COVID-19. 

Grocery Dive

CVS to give COVID patients Eli Lilly therapy in their homes

CVS Health Corp. will administer Eli Lilly & Co.’s COVID-19 treatment in patients’ homes and in long-term care facilities through a program with the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed.  The anti-body therapy normally takes up to an hour in a medical center or clinic.  With cases rising it is anticipated in-home therapy may help patients from being hospitalized or spreading the disease.  Hospitals, primary-care doctors, urgent-care centers and long-term care facilities can refer patients to receive a home infusion.

Bloomberg News Wire

Amazon Commits to Climate Pledge

Amazon has committed to a climate pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040, which is ten years sooner than the Paris Agreement’s goal of  being climate neutral by 2050.  Signatories to The Climate Pledge agree to:

  • Measure and report greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis;
  • Implement decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through real business changes and innovations, including efficiency improvements, renewable energy, materials reductions and other carbon-emission elimination strategies;
  • Neutralize any remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent, and socially beneficial offsets to achieve net-zero annual carbon emissions by 2040.

Retail Leader

Grocery Shoppers Shift to Less-Expensive Brands Amid Pandemic

Consumers seek savings via more promotions, coupons, Inmar poll finds.  When it comes to brand choice, most U.S. grocery shoppers are opting for value during the coronavirus crisis, a new survey from Inmar Intelligence shows.  Of 1,000 consumers surveyed in November, 61 percent reported switching purchase loyalty to less-expensive brands since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Over 70 percent of respondents said they have actively searched for new types of grocery products or brands during the pandemic, and 83 percent aim to buy these new products again. Grocery customers said cost were the chief reasons they purchased the new items and brands.

Super Market News

J.C. Penney exits Chapter 11

J.C. Penny has exited bankruptcy.  A court approved for $300 million in cash and a new loan for $500 million.  Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management acquired substantially all of Penney’s retail and operating assets.  In the process J.C. Penny closed an estimated 700 stores nationwide.  All parties involved are optimistic for the future success of the newly restructured organization.

Chain Store Age

Kroger 9th in E-Commerce Company List

Kroger ranks 9th on eMarketer’s ranking of the top U.S. e-commerce retailers.  Kroger’s e-commerce sales will surpass $11 billion this year, growing by more than 79 percent year over year, according to eMarketer.  Amazon tops the list followed by Walmart.  Following is e-Marketer’s 2020 top 10 U.S. retail e-commerce companies ranked by sales (figures are in billions). 

1. Amazon: $309.58

2. Walmart: $46.20

3. eBay: $38.61

4. Apple: $27.51

5. The Home Depot: $16.71

6. Best Buy: $15.70

7. Target: $13.82

8. Wayfair: $11.66

9. Kroger: $11.28

10. Costco: $11.18

Chain Store Age

Online U.S. Grocery Sales Top $8 billion in November  

Online grocery sales continue to gain momentum.  Sales hit $8.1 billion in November as 60.1 million U.S. households placed on average 2.8 orders during the month.  This according to the Bricks Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey.  Sales of online grocery sales have remained above the $8 billion level since May. 

Chain Store Age

Lowe’s Intends to Gain Market Share

Lowe’s Cos. unveiled a new “total home” strategy designed to gain share in the $900 billion home improvement market.   Lowe’s intends to do this through sales in the pro-business, e-commerce and installation services.  At its investor conference, the home improvement retailer reiterated its outlook, saying it expects sales to grow by about 22% this year with a comparable sales increase of 23%.  After adjustments, Lowe’s forecast earnings of $8.62 to $8.72 per share in fiscal 2020.

Chain Store Age

Walgreens tracking Flu Activity Subscribe

Walgreens is rolling out its Walgreens Flu Index, tracking flu activity in areas across the country.  This for the seventh year in a row and in time for National Influenza Vaccination Week.  As COVID-19 continues to surge, health officials are encouraging flu shots to prevent two respiratory illnesses from circulating simultaneously, potentially bringing hospitals to capacity.   In November Las Vegas was fifth in the nation for flu activity.

Drug Store News

Amazon Launching Renewable Energy Projects

Amazon will become the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. Amazon plans to add 26 utility-scale wind and solar energy projects, totaling 3.4 gigawatts production capacity, bringing its total investment in renewable energy in 2020 to 35 projects and more than 4 GW of capacity, representing the largest corporate investment in renewable energy in a single year.  These new projects will make the company the largest-ever corporate purchaser of renewable energy.  Amazon’s total renewable wind and solar energy investments to date will supply 6.5 GW of electricity production capacity.  If Amazon’s renewable energy were available to the public, it could power 1.7 million U.S. homes for one year.

Chain Store Age

Walmart to be Part of COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

Walmart is readying its pharmacies for the COVID-19 vaccine.  According to Walmart, the company is making agreements with states to support vaccines where needed.  In all this Walmart is preparing their spaces with freezers and dry ice.  Governments, seemingly, may see the ubiquitous retailer as a means to not only deliver vaccines, but as a way to help more people get vaccinated. 

Grocery Dive

Walgreens Likely Will Start COVID-19 Vaccinations in Nursing Homes by ChristmasSubscribe

Walgreens is ready.  This according to Dr. Kevin Ban, Walgreens chief medical officer.  Walgreens has become adept at administering vaccines in its stores.  As a result, they feel they are competent to help lead the vaccine effort while vaccinating the largest vulnerable group in a first ever COVID-19 vaccination effort.

Chain Store Age

Online Grocery Sales Remain Strong

It is not surprising to anyone that online grocery sales are growing.  To anyone who shops the aisles of their local stores, the effects of online grocery orders are obvious.  Hired shoppers are in most aisles filling orders for those who now order online and either pick-up their order or have it delivered. Monthly sales have remained above $8 billion since May with delivery and pickup services playing an increasingly essential role in meeting grocery needs. Delivery and pickup segments captured 73 percent of the online sales in November and active delivery and pickup shoppers reported a record-high repeat intent rate of 83 percent In November, online grocery sales attributed to delivery and pickup increased 3.6 percent compared to August 2020. November’s improvement was largely driven by higher order volume, which increased more than 5.1 percent from August levels to 62.7 million monthly orders.  

Super Market Perimeter