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Q&A with President and CEO John Standley

stadleyAs previously announced, John Standley became Rite Aid’s new CEO on June 23 as Mary Sammons, who served as CEO for seven years, continues to serve the company as Chairman. @Rite Aid recently interviewed Standley:

Q: John, congratulations on becoming CEO of Rite Aid. You’ve been a CEO before, so what motivates you to take on this role again?

A: I have a strong desire to see our company succeed. We have our challenges, like the economy, but we also have great people, a solid store base that spans coast to coast and an aging U.S. population that is expected to fuel long-term growth in our industry. When you stir all of that together, we have an opportunity to do something really special here.

Q: Right now, what is our biggest opportunity as a company?

A: Without a doubt, it’s our wellness+ Rewards Program. It’s one of the best tools we’ve ever had to work with and a big key to attracting and maintaining the loyal customers that are so important to our business, especially our pharmacy business.

Overall, we are very pleased with the results of wellness+ thus far. As of July 26, we had more than 16 million customers and patients enrolled. Just 12 weeks into the program, 37 percent of our chainwide front-end sales and 36 percent of our chainwide prescriptions were from wellness+ members.

Our associates are working hard to keep this momentum going by asking every customer if they have awellness+ card and signing them up if they are not currently enrolled.

Q: You mentioned earlier how the aging population is expected to drive growth in our industry. Can you elaborate on the future of the pharmacy business?

A: I believe the pharmacy business is going to continue to be a real core part of healthcare despite the regulation and reimbursement rate issues the industry is working through. At the end of the day, pharmaceuticals will still be the most cost-effective therapy for many illnesses and health issues.

In addition to the aging population, there will be some new therapies coming to market in the coming years that are expected to drive more growth. We are doing a lot of work to position ourselves for that opportunity. One way is training additional Rite Aid pharmacists to give immunizations because an increasing number of drugs will soon be administered via injection.

We’re also improving the way we communicate with patients. MyRiteAid.com users can now sign up for voice, email and text message alerts telling them when their prescription is ready for pick up or if we encounter any issues when filling a prescription. Members of wellness+ can now use our new online chat feature to ask a Rite Aid pharmacist about prescription-related issues at any time of day.

Q: In August 2008, Rite Aid began a Cultural Transformation to make the company a better place to work for associates and a better place to shop for customers. Both associate satisfaction and customer satisfaction ratings have increased since then. Is our transformation complete or is there more work to be done?

A: We’ve made some great progress, but there’s still more work to be done. We have more than 1,300 associates serving as culture ambassadors and they’re driving an on-going company-wide discussion about how to make Rite Aid a better place to work. We must continue having this discussion and keep encouraging our ambassadors to reach out to the distribution centers, corporate offices and stores in their district so that we can bring even more associates into the discussion.

Consistent and effective communication through the culture ambassadors is what will ultimately make the difference. It takes a lot of hard work to communicate consistently and effectively, but that’s how we’ll all move forward together as one cohesive team. I expect it will be a gradual process, but it’s a process I believe in very strongly.

Q: Any closing thoughts?

Just that I know there will be challenges along the way because we operate in a very competitive environment, but I believe in our people and I believe in the assets we have to work with. I’m very excited about the opportunities we have.