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Sobey’s extends loyalty agreement with Alliance Data

BY Dan Berthiaume

Stellarton, Canada – Canadian supermarket chain Sobey’s Inc. has signed a cross-Canada, long-term agreement with loyalty and marketing solutions provider Alliance Data Systems Corp. Under the agreement, Sobeys-owned banners in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Western Canada, and northwestern Ontario, will remain sponsors in the Alliance Air Miles Reward Program. In addition, other Sobeys-owned banners in western Canada will also issue Air Miles reward miles beginning in fall 2014.

Specifically, Sobeys will bring the Air Miles reward program to Sobeys, IGA, Thrifty Foods and Sobeys Liquor stores in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in fall 2014, and will continue the partnership in Safeway and Safeway Wine and Spirits stores across the west and locations in Northwestern Ontario.

The Air Miles reward program also continues at IGA, IGA Extra, Marche Bonichoix, Les Marches Tradition and Rachelle-Bery in Quebec; and at Sobeys, Foodland and Lawtons Drugs in Atlantic Canada. Current loyalty programs in Sobeys’ western Canada stores and associated co-branded credit card products will transition to the Air Miles reward program in fall 2014, Customers will also be able to redeem their reward miles for Air Miles Cash, the program’s instant redemption feature, at select Sobeys banner stores where reward miles are issued.

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Vee24 releases video assistance solutions

BY Dan Berthiaume

Cambridge, Mass. – Vee24, a provider of live video assistance solutions, is releasing the VeeStudio Software Development Kit (SDK) for iOS and Android, as well as VeeAssist, a new co-browsing product designed to enhance call center satisfaction. VeeAssist expands the company’s assisted selling solutions, including live video help, from the Web to now also support traditional telephony-based call center engagements, while the mobile toolkit extends its live help solution into brands’ iOS and Android mobile applications.

VeeStudio SDK is a new toolkit that enables the integration of live voice, video and co-browsing capabilities into any iOS or Android application. By expanding the VeeStudio platform capabilities to mobile applications, Vee24 allows brands to create their own version of the Amazon Mayday button. Brands can leverage Vee24’s cloud infrastructure through a set of open APIs to enable live, full-featured, customizable video/audio assistance.

VeeAssist is a new live assistance tool that provides a better online experience for consumers by enabling them to enter into a co-browsing session with call center agents from their smartphones, tablets, PCs and laptops.

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Walgreens misses Q3 profit estimate, withdraws guidance

BY Dan Berthiaume

Deerfield Park, Ill. – A 16% year-over-year jump in third quarter profit still missed Wall Street estimates, causing Walgreen Co. to withdraw previously issued fiscal 2016 guidance. During the third quarter of fiscal 2015, Walgreen reported net earnings of $722 million, up 16% from $624 million in the same period the previous fiscal year.

Although lower taxes helped boost Walgreens’ profits, pressure on pharmacy gross profit margins and a 0.7% decrease in same-store traffic prevented them from meeting expectations. Net sales increased 6% to $19.4 billion from $18.3 billion. Same-store sales grew 4.8%.

Walgreens is continuing in its efforts to purchase U.K. drugstore retailer Alliance Boots, which it currently holds a 45% stake in, by the end of 2015. However, Walgreens withdrew a previously issued fiscal year 2016 forecast based on combined performance of the two companies. The retailer plans to issue an update on the acquisition and fiscal year 2016 expectations in July or August of this year.

“We continued to see improving top-line growth in the third quarter driven by increased daily living sales and strong increases in both prescriptions filled and our pharmacy market share,” said Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson. “At the same time, we are experiencing increased pressure on pharmacy gross profit margins. We maintained solid expense control in the third quarter to offset some of this pressure while understanding that there is more to be done. We will be accelerating our optimization efforts, including taking additional steps to lower expenses companywide. In addition, our joint venture with Alliance Boots continues to generate significant benefits.”

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