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Supplier Conference 2014: Growing Forward, Together

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“We’re growing forward, together” was the message imparted to supplier partners at this year’s 2014 Rite Aid Supplier Conference in September. The journey to wellness, both financially and operationally, continues to be a strong focus for Rite Aid as the company transforms into a growing, sustainable retail healthcare company

The conference theme “Growing Forward, Together” emphasized the message that with a firm foundation, positive momentum driven by innovation and the strong support of Rite Aid’s supplier partners, the company is ready to grow in a number of areas and the brand is becoming stronger each step of the way.

Rite Aid’s brand promise to “actively work with our customers to keep them well” is coming to life in every program and every service the company offers, with a unique business strategy that not only addresses immediate challenges, but also positions Rite Aid for long-term success in a rapidly changing retail and healthcare environment.

Chief Financial and Administrative Officer Darren Karst shared with the audience the positive financial results the company has achieved in recent years. “We have made a lot of progress over the past few years as we’ve worked through our key business initiatives of growing the top line and continuing to strengthen and expand our wellness+ loyalty program,” he said. “We’ve expanded our pharmacy services to meet the changing needs of the healthcare consumer and invested back into our stores, and we’ve also done a good job controlling our expenses.”

Karst told supplier partners that all of these efforts have led to significant growth in EBITDA and that has allowed Rite Aid to manage its debt maturities and strengthen its balance sheet.

Following Karst’s financial report, President and Chief Operating Officer Ken Martindale outlined seven “big plays” that will support the company’s business strategy and vision that “customers will confidently choose us first for their everyday health and wellness needs”:

  1. Build new stores and continue to remodel existing stores.
  1. Expand Rite Aid Health Alliance, a first-of-its-kind program that partners Rite Aid with local physicians and medical practices to identify poly-chronic patients and create a personalized care plan to help drive positive health outcomes for each patient.
  1. Add clinics to deliver yet another convenient layer of healthcare support to the patients and the communities Rite Aid serves.
  1. Enhance wellness+ with targeted programs such as the wellness65+ program for seniors and expanded CRM efforts to further strengthen loyalty among the more than 25 million active wellness+ members
  1. Expand Rite Aid’s partnership with McKesson to help provide the highest levels of service to patients while leveraging the scale of both companies to drive efficiency throughout the entire organization
  1. Strengthen pharmacy services with innovative new programs like the “Quit For You” smoking cessation solution and continued focus on Rite Aid’s immunization program
  1. Deliver a consistently outstanding experience to both Rite Aid associates and customers to create a powerful competitive advantage.

“These seven strategies will help Rite Aid ‘grow forward’ in this rapidly changing healthcare environment,” Martindale said. “We will continue to focus on further developing our existing programs while aggressively pursuing new opportunities to deliver convenient, affordable and effective wellness solutions to the communities we serve. We must continue to drive innovative concepts and creative programs that make good business sense and resonate with the consumer.”

According to Senior Vice President of Marketing John Learish, the momentum of the past few years has been fueled by innovation, investment and a commitment to keep changing the game in the drugstore industry.

“With the partnership and support of our supplier partners, we’ve continued to leverage wellness+, the most robust loyalty program in our industry with the richest benefits in savings, services and experiential rewards,” he said. “Wellness+ is clearly the driver for everything we do — it’s the anchor around which all of our marketing and customer engagement strategies are built.”

Learish also described how the launch of Rite Aid’s e-commerce site on a new proprietary platform—with wellness+ fully integrated within it—will provide a best-in-class shopping experience for our online customers. “This adds tremendous value to our online experience and is a strong motivator for customers to activate their online profiles,” he added.

Executive Vice President of Merchandising Tony Montini focused on innovative concepts that are helping the company meet its strategic goals, such as Rite Aid’s expanded beauty category stores, which boast a dedicated Rite Aid Beauty Advisor, and Project SEAL, a unique merchandising approach that utilizes eye-catching aisle displays to inform and educate consumers.

“Innovation has been the central force of our growth and collaboration with our supplier partners has strengthened our momentum,” he said. “We continue to explore, create, test and learn—and we must continue to innovate, with the ultimate goal of delivering an even greater customer experience.”

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Standley encouraged the supplier community to continue to launch innovative concepts that engage customers and redefine the shopping experience. “Together with our supplier partners, we’ve created a dynamic supplier-retailer culture that centers around our innovative spirit,” he said.

“At Rite Aid, we’ve made outstanding progress in our journey to become a true destination for health and wellness,” Standley continued. “Now, our goal is to not only continue that journey, but to accelerate it, and become a growing retail health care company. With your continued support and engagement, I’m confident that we will succeed.”