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Retail clinics poised for dramatic expansion

BY Marianne Wilson

San Jose, Calif. — Retail clinics and big-name medical centers are poised for dramatic expansion, according to two well-known speakers at the American Telemedicine Association’s annual meeting in San Jose this week.

Smartphones, medical centers of excellence, automated clinical labs and digital medical devices will transform retail-affiliated clinics into global ports of entry to some of the best healthcare in the world at dramatically lower costs to patients, physicians, employers, governments and insurers, according to Ronald L. Hammerle and Jay H. Sanders, M.D.

"Clinic retailers like Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Safeway, Kroger, Target and Rite Aid are beginning to see major growth opportunities and new business models that actually make economic sense," according to Hammerle, the founder and chairman of Health Resources, Ltd., Tampa.

The next round of growth will electronically link large numbers of clinics, pharmacies and independently owned and operated primary care clinics to a small number of medical centers of excellence, using telemedicine technologies, computer information and proven systems for branding, management and expansion, according to Hammerle.

"Imagine combining the distribution of global retailers, the branding models of companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, Marriott and Century 21 and the clinical knowledge of some of the best physicians in the world,” he said. “That’s where healthcare is going, regardless of the fate of the Affordable Care Act in the United States."

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Report: Millennial shoppers hard hit by economic downturn

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Millennial shoppers (consumers ages 18-34) now represent the highest percentage of Americans who do not have enough money to cover their basic needs according to WSL/Strategic Retail, a leading authority on shopper behavior and retail trends. The finding, which noted that nearly 25% of this young adult market say they are not able to make ends meet – as compared with 17% of adults ages 35-54, and only 13% of those age 55 and over – was revealed as part of the company’s How America Shops MegaTrends report, Moving On 2012.

“The young adult market has always been known for being the most fashion forward, first to respond to trends and first to adopt to new retail channels,” said Candace Corlett, president of WSL/Strategic Retail. “But they’re also the group that’s been hit hardest by the economic recession, which has left them struggling to find jobs and pay down student loan debt.”

Wendy Liebmann, CEO of the company continued: “This decline in millennial spending power presents a significant challenge to brands and retailers who have long considered young adults to be the ‘golden ticket’ to sales growth. Businesses must begin rethinking their strategy to lure these shoppers to buy. At the same time, they must reevaluate the power of this generation to support new brands and stores.”

The How America Shops MegaTrends report, Moving On 2012, found that 80% of millennials believe it’s important to get the lowest price on most things, and 60% are likely to choose a lower priced brand over their usual, if they can save money. It also found that 57% of the demographic make a point to search online for discounts before shopping, and 63% are now sticking to only those brands and stores they know they can afford.

The findings gain significance when compared with results of the 2010 MegaTrends study, showing a full 10% increase in those who now make getting the lowest price a priority – even over long-held brand loyalty.

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New Sears subsidiary offers cloud computing services

BY Marianne Wilson

Hoffman Estates, Ill. — Sears Holdings announced the launch of a wholly owned subsidiary called MetaScale, that will provide data-management services.

Sears sees the venture as a natural expansion of the resources it has spent to build the infrastructure it needs to manage data for its more than 4,000 Sears and Kmart stores nationwide.

“We have this great capability," said Tom Aiello, a Sears Holdings VP public relations, in a report by Crain’s Chicago Business. "Why don’t we go ahead and take this to other companies that can benefit, and get the revenue?"

Sears is not the only retailer to extend its services in this manner, Amazon.com made its elastic compute cloud, known as EC2, available for public use and has since further developed its web services division

The new Sears unit specializes in solutions for traditional brick-and-mortar enterprises across all industry verticals looking to efficiently establish and grow their big data expertise, experience immediate tactical success and begin to build out their fundamental big data capability in an organized and precise fashion, the company said.

"MetaScale is uniquely positioned to serve the needs of large-scale enterprise projects," said Sears Holdings CIO Keith Sherwell in a statement. "From a competitive standpoint, MetaScale has identified a gap in the market to provide a superior managed services model to other large-scale traditional enterprises that haven’t taken advantage of or investigated the potential of Apache Hadoop."

MetaScale provides managed services related to the widely adopted Apache Hadoop data management framework, enabling enterprises to drive new business value from their data with end-to-end solutions through a secure, private cloud environment.

MetaScale’s services include building and configuring the Hadoop cluster; operating, managing and monitoring the cluster; integrating with other data management technologies; running data-cleansing and other data management projects; writing and developing MapReduce applications; and custom solution design and system integration.

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