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Annual Supplier Conference: “The Time is Rite, Now is the Time”

“The time is now for us to work even more closely together, Rite Aid and our supplier partners, at all levels of our organizations, to explore new ways to transform our business and redefine the drugstore category” …with that statement, Chairman and CEO Mary Sammons set the tone for Rite Aid’s 2009 Supplier Conference.

The mid-October conference in Harrisburg, PA brought nearly 700 suppliers together to hear from Rite Aid’s leadership team as they presented a state of the business progress report and introduced new initiatives to increase profitable sales and improve operational performance.

Sammons told the suppliers that the company is strong; that capital initiatives and reduced capital expenditures resulted in substantial liquidity, and debt is lower than it was at the end of the last fiscal year.

Great progress has also been made in reducing expenses as a percent of sales according to President and COO John Standley. “We’ve been able to take costs out of the business without impacting customer satisfaction,” he said.

Like other retailers, Rite Aid’s front-end sales have been negatively impacted by a weakened economy. To combat slow retail sales, Rite Aid has multiple initiatives in place for the third and fourth quarters, including a new business strategy called segmentation, in which similar stores are grouped together and operations, merchandising and marketing are tailored to these specific groups. Standley told suppliers that preliminary results show that segmentation is working and performance has improved in many stores.

Other initiatives outlined by company leaders included merchandising and marketing programs to increase holiday sales, like the One More Item sales campaign, Hot Buys end caps, three-tiered baskets, Gift of Savings and Video Values.

Rite Aid’s new wellness+ customer loyalty program was also introduced at the event, and many suppliers were pleased to hear about this program that company leaders say will be “game-changing” in the retail drugstore industry.

For many, the highlight of the conference came as the Collaborative Spirit Award was presented and the Associate Category Manager of the Year, Category Manager of the Year and Suppliers of the Year were honored.

Read more about Rite Aid’s wellness+ Customer Loyalty Program and the Supplier Conference Recognition Awards in other articles in this edition of @RiteAid.