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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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Walmart shakes up merchandising organization

BY CSA STAFF

More than a dozen of Walmart’s top merchants are in new roles following a realignment of responsibilities that chief merchandising and marketing officer Duncan Mac Naughton said is designed to recognize customers’ needs and serve them more efficiently.

The changes affected executives throughout the merchandising organization and included areas such as consumables, food, general merchandise, softlines, health and wellness, shopper insights and merchandising operations. In an internal memo obtained by Retailing Today, Mac Naughton said he was pleased to announce, “a few changes which will help accelerate our growth and efficiency as a world-class merchant organization. Additionally, these moves provide a more specialized service to our customers, while also creating better alignment and a greater visibility across our business.”

Among the most significant moves was the elevation of Scott Huff to the role of EVP of merchandising operations from his prior position as SVP of consumables. In his new role, Huff is responsible for merchandising execution, replenishment, store layout, supplier diversity, planning, pricing, modular development and joint business planning. Working closely with Huff will be Scott Pleiman who was named SVP of planning, pricing, modular development and joint business planning.

Assuming Huff’s prior responsibilities as SVP of consumables, but in an EVP capacity is Michelle Gloeckler. She was named EVP of consumables and U.S. manufacturing after previously serving as SVP of home and overseeing the retailer’s expanding domestic sourcing initiative.

Another key EVP move involved John Aden to the newly created role of EVP of sales innovation. He is tasked with identifying new and disruptive service and product offerings, according to Mac Naughton. Aden had previously served as EVP of merchandise services and EVP of general merchandise prior to that.

Walmart’s Global Customer and Insights and Analytics group, led by EVP Cindy Davis, appointed Matt Kistler to the new role of SVP of Walmart U.S. consumer insights. He will report to Davis and Walmart U.S. chief marketing officer Stephen Quinn.

Other key changes included the following:

  • In the grocery area, Ashley Buchanan was appointed SVP of dry grocery after previously leading Walmart’s sizable snacks and beverage division and prior to that Walmart’s innovations team. Promoted to Buchanan’s role was Latriece Watkins who was named SVP of snacks and beverages after previously serving as VP of adult beverages, a category that experienced dramatic growth under her leadership. Reporting to Watkins in a new role as VP of adult beverages is Silvia Azrai Kawas. The group will report to Jack Sinclair, Walmart’s EVP of food.
  • In the softline area, the promotion of Gloecker resulted in the promotion of Marybeth Cornwell to the role of SVP reporting to Andy Barron, EVP of softlines for Walmart U.S. Cornwell previously served as SVP of home and apparel for Sam’s Club. In a related softlines move, Deanah Baker was named SVP of apparel and ladieswear, intimates, jewelry and accessories. Diana Marshall was named VP of baby, a huge business at Walmart, after previously holding merchandising roles in the housewares, home, hardware and paint businesses.
  • In the hardlines and health and wellness areas, Walmart named former Lowe’s and Hechinger Co., merchant to the role of VP of hardware and paint. In health and wellness, Mark Phillips was named VP of pharmaceutical merchandising after previously serving as senior director of merchandising for small formats.

The changes come as Walmart strives to restore same store sales growth at its U.S. stores during the back half of the year after a challenging first quarter and difficult 2013.

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