FINANCE

99 Cents Only in $1.6 billion buyout

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Commerce, Calif. — Discounter 99 Cents Only Stores said Tuesday it has agreed to be acquired by a group of investors including its founding family, Ares Management and Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board for $1.6 billion in cash.

The announcement ends a months-long sales process, which started with a takeover offer from Leonard Green & Partners in March.

The Gold/Schiffer family, which founded the company almost 30 years ago, will roll over its 33% stake into the newly private company. The family members and other existing management will stay on to run the company, which operates 298 stores.

“We have come to know and respect Ares Management and C.P.P.I.B. through this process, and we believe they will be excellent partners and help us achieve our long-term goals as a company,” Eric Schiffer, CEO, 99 Cents, said in a statement.

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Walgreens adds former CIGNA CMO and specialty pharmacy vet to team

BY CSA STAFF

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Tuesday named Jeffrey Kang and Mike Ellis to its pharmacy, health and wellness division.

Kang will join Walgreens Oct. 31 as SVP health and wellness services and solutions, reporting to both president and CEO Greg Wasson and president of pharmacy, health and wellness Kermit Crawford.

In addition, Mike Ellis has joined Walgreens as VP specialty pharmacy and infusion, reporting to Crawford.

"To advance community pharmacy and our role in the integration and cost-effective delivery of healthcare, we are continuing to strengthen the talent and leadership of our pharmacy, health and wellness organization," Crawford said. "Jeff comes to Walgreens after a long and diverse career in the healthcare industry. He has experienced the industry from all sides — as a practicing physician, from inside government and in the private sector. With his extensive background in health care, Jeff has the breadth of experience and strategic insight to lead our health and wellness businesses, building a dynamic organization that helps us meet customers’ needs for access to quality, affordable health care."

Most recently Kang, 55, was chief medical officer at CIGNA, where he was responsible for health strategy and policy for its medical, pharmacy and behavioral products. Kang also was responsible for CIGNA’s pay for performance programs, including its patient centered medical home and accountable care organizations. Prior to his position at CIGNA, he served as chief clinical officer at the Health Care Financing Administration (now Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) from 1998 to 2002. He also was chief medical officer for the Office of Managed Care from 1995 to 1998.

Kang began his career as the executive director of the Urban Medical Group, a not-for-profit, private group practice in Boston that pioneered the use of physician and nurse practitioner teams to care for frail, elderly patients.

Kang is board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics and was on the clinical faculty at Harvard Medical School. In 1981, he received both his M.D. from University of California at San Francisco and his M.P.H from the University of California at Berkeley. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1977. He was on the clinical faculty at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital, Harvard Medical School, from 1984 to 1994. Kang currently serves on the board of directors for the National Committee for Quality Assurance and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

In announcing the appointment of Mike Ellis as Walgreens new VP specialty pharmacy and infusion, Crawford said Ellis will bring important strategic oversight to both of those business units. "Mike’s well-rounded background in specialty and infusion pharmacy includes developing strategic service relationships with the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, and building new business opportunities," said Crawford. "His leadership will be an important part of our opportunity to play a significant role as a provider in these growing pharmaceutical segments."

Most recently Ellis, 53, managed private investments for companies in healthcare and other industries. Prior to that, he served as SVP specialty trade relations and contracting and pharmaceutical services for CVS Caremark. His more than 28 years of experience covers both the specialty pharmacy and infusion services industries, including senior positions with companies including AdvancePCS, Olsten Health Services and Quantum Health Resources.

Ellis is a licensed pharmacist and earned his bachelor of science degree in pharmacy in 1982 from the University of Arkansas College of Pharmacy.

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Breaking Through the Noise: Cornerstones to Loyalty Program Success

BY CSA STAFF

By Mark Friedman, [email protected]

Imagine a world where consumers collectively gathered $16 billion and flushed it down the drain – when every penny could have easily flown into retailers’ cash drawers?

According to a recent COLLOQUY study, we’re reached that point. Consumers left $16 billion in unclaimed loyalty points last year, ignoring the perks, discounts and special offers they are entitled to as loyal program members. Retailers invested millions in loyalty programs that were golden money-makers just a few years ago, with almost nothing to show for it today. This trend is killing profit margins and retailers are growing agitated about the lost sales opportunities.

So what gives? First and foremost, consumers are inundated with loyalty program offers from retailers of all kinds, whether big-boxers, regional chains or supermarkets. According to Colloquy’s 2011 US Loyalty Census, the average US household is enrolled in 18 loyalty programs – a 16% increase over two years. It’s a safe bet each of these retailers are using direct mail, email, phone calls, text messaging and social media to communicate their latest deals, and convey why they’re better than the other retailer.

Consumers are overwhelmed; in many cases not even aware how they’ll benefit from each program. When they do take notice of the offers, they often lack the time to determine which ones to act on. Retailers must address the critical question of how to break through this market noise and fierce competition to get consumers’ paying attention and buying.

Here are five cornerstones to get started on the path to a more successful loyalty program:

1. Expand your reach: Retailers who adapt to rapid changes in the consumer communications landscape will experience the most responsiveness and success. Text messaging and mobile communications are highly underutilized, yet popular among consumers. Relying more on these channels, instead of traditional communications – such as fliers or pamphlets – will provide an invaluable head start over competitors.

2. Ditch the cookie-cutter approach: Yet, don’t abuse the growing communications spectrum, bombarding every consumer with every type of communication imaginable. While more consumers prefer to receive information via mobile phone calls, text messages or emails, they likely don’t want it all. One unwanted message is all it takes to turn a customer away. Be smart – use a multichannel communications approach mapped to each customer’s habits and preferences.

3. Live by customer preferences: Building loyalty starts with making customers feel valued, and you can’t achieve that without personalized communications. Take a page from newspaper reporting – employ the five W’s (who, what, when, where and why). Ask and observe how each consumer prefers to receive their loyalty program information – and most importantly, act on it. Enrollment periods, anniversaries or renewals – when customers are actually the most prone to be active – are the perfect time to collect this information.

4. Be interactive: Always remember engagement is a two-way street. Retailers should initiate multi-channel blending, giving consumers more options to engage with businesses the way they’d like to. For instance, send a text message confirming a loyalty reward status or communicating a redemption offer, giving the customer the option to respond through several channels, text message, website or phone. This makes them feel like they are a one-of-a-kind customer, and provides you with valuable insight into their behavior.

5. Embrace change: Actions speak louder than words, especially with preferences. A customer may state how they prefer to receive information, but their actions may indicate otherwise, or that preference may change over time. To stay ahead of this shifting demand, keep asking customers their preferences on a regular basis and give them choices for how they can respond.

Mark Friedman is chief marketing and business development officer at SoundBite Communications, Inc., a provider of cloud-based, multichannel proactive customer communications, including loyalty reward programssolutions. He can be reached at [email protected].

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