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Pharmacists accuse CVS Caremark of unfair competition

BY CSA STAFF

Alexandria, Va. A pharmacists association asked trade regulators on Wednesday to investigate CVS Caremark, accusing the drug retailer of waging unfair competition.

The National Community Pharmacists Association alleged that CVS used patient information and co-payment manipulation to steer patients to its pharmacies and drug mail-order businesses. The association met with the Federal Trade Commission and also has talked to members of Congress.

“We believe CVS Caremark is taking away fundamental rights of patients to choose their own pharmacy, and that message is getting a very receptive ear on Capitol Hill,” said John Coster, the association’s senior VP government affairs.

CVS responded in an e-mailed statement that the association has mischaracterized its business practices.

Association spokesman Kevin Schweers said CVS uses the possibility of higher co-payments to push customers to switch from community drug stores to a CVS store or its mail-order business.

The association, which represents mostly independent pharmacies, provided several examples of letters it said were sent from CVS to benefits-plan customers telling them that prescriptions will either no longer be filled at another store or they will be subjected to higher co-payments.

The letters also mention potential savings on 90-day prescriptions filled through either a CVS pharmacy or its mail-order business.

There has been no comment from the FTC.

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Macy’s suffers 1Q loss, but sees boost online

BY CSA STAFF

CINCINNATI Macy’s reported a net loss of 21 cents per diluted share for the first quarter of 2009. In the first quarter of 2008, Macy’s lost 14 cents per diluted share.

“We continue to successfully navigate this very difficult economic environment,” said Terry Lundgren, Macy’s chairman, president and CEO. “Our first quarter sales were consistent with our initial expectations, while earnings and cash flow performance were better than expected.

Sales in the first quarter totaled $5.199 billion, down 9.5% from total sales of $5.747 billion in the first 13 weeks of 2008. On a same-store basis, Macy’s first quarter sales were down 9%.

Online sales (macys.com and bloomingdales.com combined) were up 16.2% in the first quarter of 2009 and positively affected the company’s first quarter 2009 same-store sales by 0.5 percentage points. Online sales are included in the same-store sales calculation for Macy’s.

Macy’s is maintaining its guidance for fiscal 2009 sales to be down between 6% and 8%, and for earnings of 40 cents to 55 cents per diluted share, excluding division consolidation costs. The company expects it will exceed this guidance if the economy improves in the second half of the year. The company expects to book approximately $230 million in division consolidation costs in the final three quarters of 2009.

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Payless helps give NYC kids some fresh air

BY CSA STAFF

NEW YORK CITY and TOPEKA, Kan. Payless has partnered with The Fresh Air Fund once again for the Friendship Shoe program designed to raise money and awareness for the nonprofit organization and its mission to give inner-city children from New York City “fresh air” through free summer experiences at Fresh Air Fund camps and with host families in “Friendly Towns” outside the city.

Payless is now selling its “Friendship Shoe” for $17.99 in children’s sizes and $22.99 in adult sizes, while supplies last, at about 280 Payless stores in the New York City metro area (including stores in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey) and on Payless.com. Payless will donate 100% of the net profits from the sale of the Friendship Shoe to The Fresh Air Fund.

“Our Friendship Shoe celebrates friendship – it’s a unique item for children to carry out the time-honored tradition of sharing each other’s signatures — and it’s fully philanthropic, helping give summer camp opportunities to children who might not have them,” said LuAnn Via, president of Payless ShoeSource. “This is our third year with this program and we are thrilled to partner with The Fresh Air Fund on an empowering initiative that will ignite a range of possibilities for children, and especially to help Fresh Air Fund kids to get out of the city this summer and experience new friends, new venues, and new activities.”

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