FINANCE

NRF: House healthcare bill ‘sure recipe’ for job losses

BY CSA STAFF

Washington, D.C. The National Retail Federation asked the House on Friday to start over from scratch on its $1 trillion healthcare reform bill, calling the measure “the biggest anti-stimulus legislation imaginable” and saying it would be a “sure recipe” for further job losses during the current national recession.

“The key to reform is reducing both short- and long-term health care and coverage costs without disrupting existing health care,” said NRF senior VP government relations Steve Pfister.

“The House bill fails to meet this objective. We urge Congress to abandon H.R. 3200 and make a fresh start on a better-calibrated and more-affordable bill.”

Pfister said that healthcare reform should not drive up labor costs. “Done wrong, healthcare reform could well become the biggest anti-stimulus legislation imaginable. We cannot afford bad healthcare reform,” he said.

Pfister’s comments came in a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and copied to all members of the House.

Pfister emphasized that the NRF favors reform, and supports the actions of the Blue Dog Coalition of conservative Democrats and their allies in seeking both short- and long-term cost savings. But, he added, more work is needed to secure and expand beyond the agreement reached between Blue Dogs and House leaders.

“Retailers necessarily operate on a short horizon, needing to meet both present payroll obligations and also build and maintain inventory,” Pfister said. “We agree that long-term cost savings are vitally important to our financial future but these are not sufficient to meet retailers’ present day needs.”

Pfister said NRF appreciates a tentative agreement with Blue Dogs to limit the House bill’s employer mandate to companies with annual payrolls of $500,000 and larger, rather than $250,000, but that NRF still cannot support an employer mandate in any form because the increased labor costs could lead to layoffs.

Pfister also said that NRF continues to oppose a publicly sponsored insurance plan, particularly in a form that would reimburse healthcare providers at Medicare rates for the first three years as provided in the version of the House bill approved by the Education and Labor Committee and the Ways and Means Committee.

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CVS enhances access for visually impaired

BY CSA STAFF

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS/pharmacy announced that it is implementing functional improvements to benefit its customers with visual impairments and other disabilities. The Company has installed tactile keypads in all CVS/pharmacy stores and it will enhance its Web site in 2009.

The announcement is the result of a collaboration between CVS/pharmacy, the American Foundation for the Blind, American Council of the Blind and California Council of the Blind.

“We are pleased to collaborate with organizations committed to advocacy for the blind and introduce service enhancements in our stores and online that will increase access for our visually impaired customers,” said Helena Foulkes, EVP and CMO of CVS/pharmacy Caremark.

CVS/pharmacy’s point-of-sales improvements are designed to assist customers who cannot read information on a flat screen point-of-sale device and therefore cannot privately enter their PIN or other confidential information. All CVS/pharmacy stores have been equipped with a tactile device at both the front check-out counter and the pharmacy counter to ensure that customers unable to use a flat screen keypad do not have to provide their PIN to a store employee. The company is also training its store employees to provide appropriate interaction with visually impaired customers regarding the use of the new tactile devices.

“Without tactile keys, blind and visually impaired people have no choice but to share their PINs with strangers,” explained Melanie Brunson, executive director of the American Council of the Blind. “Today’s announcement, and the collaboration that led to it, demonstrates CVS/pharmacy’s ongoing commitment to its blind and visually impaired customers.”

“An accessible Web site is crucial if people with vision loss are to obtain goods, services and information on an equal footing,” said Paul Schroeder, vice president, programs and policy group of the American Foundation for the Blind. “We appreciate CVS/pharmacy’s commitment to ensure that CVS.com is usable by the broadest range of online consumers, including those who have disabilities.”

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Goody’s returns with the help of Specialty Retailers

BY CSA STAFF

Texas-based Specialty Retailers has bought the Goody’s name. The deal was finalized at the beginning of July. The company plans to begin opening stores in some former Goody’s markets this fall.

In June 2008, Goody’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the first time. Under its reorganization plan, Goody’s streamlined and reorganized its operations to improve the business model, significantly reduced operating costs, and maximized the value of core assets. This included the closure and liquidation of 69 underperforming retail locations in 18 states, the closing of a distribution center in Arkansas and a corporate office in New York, and the elimination of excessive corporate spending. In addition, Goody’s eliminated the company’s e-commerce business, as well as an associated distribution center in Tennessee.

In conjunction with the Plan, Goody’s had successfully closed a $175 million revolving exit credit facility provided by GE Corporate Lending and Bank of America. In addition, Goody’s had secured $10 million and $35 million exit term loans from GB Merchant Partners and PGDYS Lending respectively.

However, the company reported that it had unexpectedly suffered from poor sales after emerging out of their Oct. 2008 bankruptcy, same-store sales decreasing by 19.2%.  By comparison, the plan of reorganization was based upon a 2.9% decline.  Nov. 2008 same store sales decreased 18.4% and December 2008 same-store sales decreased 13.6%.

Goody’s emergence out of bankruptcy in October 2008 was followed by a second file for bankruptcy protection in January 2009.

New Goody’s will open in several Tennessee locations, including Rogersville, Dayton and Kimbel. The Rogersville store will be in a former Goody’s building and is scheduled to open in August.

Specialty Retailers owns several retail chains, including Peebles.

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