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Volume 42 No. 12

DECEMBER 2020

What’s next for beauty? P. 54

Drug Store News

Rite Aid’s RxEvolutionary NEW Approach With new leadership and an overhauled go-to-market strategy, Rite Aid is moving forward with purpose

December 2020

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Sambucol’s expanded range gives your customers the immune support* they’re looking for.

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Contact us at Sales@pharmacareus.com, 858-997-1156 x509 www.sambucolusa.com *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. ** IRI MULO as of September 6, 2020

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Vol. 42 No. 12 DrugStoreNews.com

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FEATURES 8

Industry News

16 Beauty Focus On: SeraLabs 26 Selfcare Roadmap Insights Chronic condition maintenance shopper insights powered by GMDC|Retail Tomorrow’s and HRG’s Selfcare Roadmap Insights tool

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27 Products to Watch 28 CBD News 32 Focus On: Hyland’s 34 Cover Story 2020 Pharmacy Innovator of the Year: Rite Aid The Camp Hill, Pa.-based chain has new leadership and a renewed strategy that puts its pharmacists at the center and features a new store format and stronger omnichannel strategy

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COLUMNS 6 Editor’s Note 18 Counter Talk with Physician-Dispensing. com’s Jonathan Ni and King, Edward, First’s Nicholas Benedict

20 Counter Talk with GMDC|Retail Tomorrow’s Patrick Spear

21 Counter Talk with McKesson’s Mike Cihlar

22 One-on-One with Asterra Labs’ Melissa Cromer

HEALTH

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50 Lice Solutions 24 One-on-One with iA’s Marvin Richardson

25 Counter Talk with ScriptDrop’s Amanda Epp

58 Last Word with David Orgel Consulting’s David Orgel

Virtual school doesn’t mean virtual lice. How the category has navigated the pandemic.

INSIDE BEAUTY 54 What’s in Store? Can the beleaguered category leverage its pandemic-fueled segments to succeed in the coming year?

SOCIAL Facebook.com/ DrugStoreNews Twitter.com/ DrugStoreNews

DSN (ISSN 0191-7587) is published monthly 12 times a year by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Subscription rate in the United States: $125 one year; $230 two year; $14 single issue copy; Canada and Mexico: $150 one year; $270 two year; $16 single issue copy; Foreign: $170 one year; $325 two year; $16 single issue copy. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to DSN, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Vol. 42 No. 12, December 2020. Copyright © 2020 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved.

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EDITOR’S NOTE

New Competitor, Same Solutions With Amazon diving into pharmacy, traditional retailers can still better deliver on consumer needs By Seth Mendelson

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et’s welcome Amazon to the neighborhood. Frankly, no one can be surprised by the company’s decision to launch Amazon Pharmacy, its new store on its website that allows its Prime customers to purchase pharmaceuticals on their desktops or mobile device, probably at lower price points than currently available. We knew this was coming when Amazon purchased PillPack in 2018. We knew this was coming when Amazon started acquiring wholesale pharmacy licenses in various Seth Mendelson Editor in Chief/ states, starting in 2017. Heck, one could argue that we Associate Publisher saw this coming as far back as nearly 20 years ago when Amazon first started to become a player in the retail world. Now, what do we do about it? The answer is the same as whenever a new, robust competitor enters the marketplace. The rest of us have to get better at what we do to keep as many consumers coming back to our stores and websites for their purchases. All Amazon is doing is turning the heat up a little bit. The company has done it before when it purchased Whole Foods Market more than three years ago. Everyone thought the sky was falling back then, too. Everyone thought that the Amazon-Whole Foods deal would be the end of grocery retailing for just about everyone else. It did not happen. Instead, other retailers took the necessary steps to fight back against that merger. They spruced up their stores; they spruced up their merchandise mix and they spruced up their go-to-market strategies to ensure that as many consumers as possible kept coming into their stores. Funny how good competition can make other businesses act smarter. Drug stores and their pharmacies now have to do the same thing. I think they actually have been doing this already. To beat back the Amazon challenge, retailers need to continue to take the necessary steps to keep customers coming through the doors. That all starts with the pharmacists, who will have to step up their games even more to stay connected with their patients. Then, it is incumbent on retailers to make sure they offer a retail environment that is welcoming to the shopper and have the right products — at the right price points — that ensure their consumers do not even view Amazon as an option for them. As always, it is going to take a lot of money to keep up with Amazon. But, from this angle at least, there is really no alternative. Is there? dsn

To beat back the Amazon challenge, retailers need to continue to take the necessary steps to keep customers coming in.

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An EnsembleIQ Publication 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631 Senior Vice President, Publisher John Kenlon (516) 650-2064, jkenlon@ensembleiq.com Editor in Chief /Associate Publisher Seth Mendelson (212) 756-5160, smendelson@ensembleiq.com EDITORIAL Managing Editor David Salazar (212) 756-5114, dsalazar@ensembleiq.com Senior Editor Sandra Levy (845) 893-9573, slevy@ensembleiq.com Desk Editor Maria Manliclic (212) 756-5093, mmanliclic@ensembleiq.com Online Editor Gisselle Gaitan (212) 756-5138, ggaitan@ensembleiq.com SALES & BUSINESS Northeast Manager Alex Tomas (212) 756-5155, atomas@ensembleiq.com Regional Manager Steven Werner (312) 961-7162 swerner@ensembleiq.com Beauty Sales and Marketing Manager Delaney Renker (616)-644-4495 drenker@ensembleiq.com Production Manager Jackie Batson (224) 632-8183, jbatson@ensembleiq.com PROJECT MANAGEMENT/PRODUCTION/ART Vice President, Production Derek Estey (877) 687-7321 x 1004, destey@ensembleiq.com Creative Director Colette Magliaro cmagliaro@ensembleiq.com AUDIENCE LIST RENTAL MeritDirect Marie Briganti 914-309-3378 SUBSCRIBER SERVICES/CUSTOMER CARE TOLL-FREE: 1-877-687-7321 FAX: 1-888-520-3608 contact@drugstorenews.com REPRINTS & PERMISSIONS Reprints, permissions and licensing, please contact Wright’s Media at ensembleiq@wrightsmedia.com or (877) 652-5295.

CORPORATE OFFICERS Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Litterick Chief Financial Officer Jane Volland Chief Innovation Officer Tanner Van Dusen Chief Human Resources Officer Ann Jadown Executive Vice President, Events & Conferences Ed Several Senior Vice President, Content Joe Territo

December 2020 DRUGSTORENEWS.COM

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Ocean Spray Adds Functional Beverage Line Ocean Spray isn’t resting on its laurels, even in its 90th year in business. The company is expanding its offerings with the launch of its B1U beverage line. Featuring functional on-trend benefits, as well as simple ingredients, easy-to-understand nutrition and recyclable packaging, the line consists of four infused waters that do not contain artificial sugar or sweeteners. “The functional beverage category continues to be driven by health-conscious consumers who know their food is fuel for living a healthy life and are interested in a holistic approach to well-being,” said Kim McAllister, director of core innovation at Ocean Spray. “We are excited to offer the B1U brand as an innovative new entrant into the fast-growing infused water category that is forwardthinking, tasty and nutritious, and will inspire customers to try it and choose it again and again.” B1U offerings include: • I need a boost, a watermelon cucumber-infused water with 60 mg of caffeine from black tea; • I need rhythm, a strawberry basil-infused water with 8 g of plant-based fiber; • I need immunity, a lemon chamomile-infused water with 22 mg of zinc and 128 mg of vitamin C; and • I need power, a kiwi-infused water with 10 mg of protein. B1U beverages rolled out in November at select Target stores and online at Amazon.com, with select Walmart stores stocking the products this month.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Snickers Peanut Brownie Expands Availability Snickers fans rejoice. Peanut Brownie, which saw a very limited roll out during the summer, is hitting shelves nationwide beginning in December. Also available for pre-order on Walmart.com, Snickers Peanut Brownie features individual squares with a layer of caramel and a chewy peanut-brownie filling coated in the brand’s classic chocolate. “Since our announcement this summer, fans have shown tremendous enthusiasm toward Snickers Peanut Brownie — and now the wait to try our biggest innovation to date is over,” said Josh Olken, brand director at Snickers. “We’re excited for all of our fans to get their hands on this new satisfying mashup of two beloved and comforting treats: Snickers bars and brownies.” Snickers Peanut Brownie is available in a single 1.2-oz. size, a 2.4-oz. share size and a 6.61-oz. stand-up pouch.

DEDICATED TO QUALITY & SUPPLY...

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Natrol Grows Immunity Lineup Natrol is adding a few new supplements to its immunity line. Known for its vitamins, minerals and supplements, the Chatsworth, Calif.-based brand is launching five new products that it said provide users with a drug-free way to support their overall immune system. “At Natrol, we always encourage our customers to prioritize self-care,” said Harel Shapira, director of marketing at Natrol. “Especially this year as we all continue to head into fall and winter,

it’s important to be mindful and make informed choices. Our immune health supplements and vitamins, along with regular exercise, a balanced diet and adequate sleep each night, can be a powerful combination to support your overall health.” Featuring such ingredients as elderberry, Epicor, and vitamins D3 and C, the line also looks to protect the body against harmful external pollutants, while also aiding the body in recovering from sickness or injury, the company said. New launches include: • Immune-Biotic, a quick-dissolving powder that can be placed directly onto the tongue, aids both immune and digestive health; • Elderberry Gummies, which contain 90 mg of vitamin C and 7.5 mg of zinc, are non-GMO, vegetarian and gluten-free; • Easy-C Tablets, a potent vitamin C tablet that is easy on the stomach, comes in 60- and 120-count packages; • Immune Boost, which uses EpiCor — an immune supporting yeast complex — and vitamins C, D3, selenium and zinc to support the immune system; and • Vitamin D3, strawberry-flavored tablets that aim to aid bones, teeth and immune health. Natrol’s new immune products are available online at Natrol. com and Amazon.com, as well as at such retailers as CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Higher Education Skincare Wins at ECRM Purpose-Driven Program Higher Education Skincare won the Drug Store News/ECRM Buyers’ Choice Award for its Cram Session Blue Light Blocking Moisturizer at ECRM’s Purpose-Driven & Indie Brands virtual session in November. Seed Phytonutrients was a finalist for its Body Collection. The program focused on brands that have a socially, environmentally and economically relevant purpose. The products were selected from dozens of entries submitted by participating suppliers that buyers evaluated and voted on in a DSN-branded section of the ECRM Connect platform. “Consumers today are not just focusing on their own wellness, but also on the wellness of the entire planet,” said Craig Chmielowicz, ECRM senior vice president of health and beauty care. “Both Buyers’ Choice Award winners have products that address both of these areas through their formulations, packaging and processes. Congratulations to both winners.” Higher Education Skincare is relaunching its assortment of award-winning skin care products formulated for the Gen Z audience with new sustainable, recyclable packaging that supports climate change reform and blue beauty. Established in 2017 by skin care industry veterans who worked with a dermatologist to develop products, the company has debuted new packaging, which is set to officially launch in April 2021 and will feature vibrant colored cartons made from 100% recycled paper and primary custom-made vessels made from post-consumer resin. The winning product, Cram Session Blue Light Blocking Moisturizer, was developed for all skin types to hydrate, nourish and protect skin from damaging blue light emitted from digital devices. The moisturizer features fractionated melanin and vitamins A, E and C. The company said that when used daily in conjunction with blue light glasses, the product can protect against high-energy visible light, which can cause premature aging. Seed Phytonutrients is a family-run clean beauty brand dedicated to crafting highperformance formulas for hair, face and body, while promoting environmental sustainability for the beauty industry as a whole. Its Body Collection is a clean, natural range of formulas crafted to effectively cleanse and moisturize skin. The company said that its formulas are powered by sunflower seed and camelina seed oils, which are rich in fatty acids that can condition, moisturize and smooth skin. Its Body Cleanser and Body Moisturizer are developed for use all over the body, while its Callous Balm and Hand Salve provide more targeted, deep moisturization for trouble areas. All formulas feature a fragrance of sea salt and bergamot or cedar leaf and beach sage, made with essential oils.

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CoverGirl Launches Ingredient-Conscious Lash Blast Mascara CoverGirl’s mascara is taking on a clean, sustainable, vegan and cruelty-free format. The beauty brand announced the launch of Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara, which looks to deliver serious volume without the use of parabens, sulfates, talc and mineral oil. Instead, the mascara contains such ingredients as argan and marula oils to leave lashes feeling conditioned, the company said. Featuring a formula that does not smudge or clump and lasts all day, the Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara is available in four shades — black, pitch black, very black and black brown. In addition, the mascara is Leaping Bunny approved, FCS certified and comes in packaging made from 80% recycled paper from well-managed forests, the company said. CoverGirl’s Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara launched at Target in November and will roll out at mass market, drug store, food and e-commerce retailers beginning in January 2021.

Gaia Herbs’ Plant-Based Respiratory Line Aims to Aid Lung Health Gaia Herbs is unveiling a line of products meant to provide users with respiratory support. The line is composed of three plant-based products that the company said are free of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified ingredients. They also are vegan and free of dairy, gluten and soy, according to the Brevard, N.C.-based company. “With poor air quality due to wildfires across the West and other environmental pollutions, as well as COVID-19 cases continuing to climb, we have seen a heightened focus on respiratory health this year,” said Angela McElwee, president and CEO of Gaia Herbs. “For all of these reasons and more, people are increasingly seeking plant-based, natural wellness solutions to help support their lung health.” The new products include: • Mighty Lungs, which supports healthy lung function, features a blend of adaptogenic and respiratory herbs as mullein, plantain, schisandra and elecampane; • Sinus Comfort, containing such herbs as yarrow, plantain, bayberry and nettle, aims to help users maintain their sinus health; and • Black Seed Oil, a single-herb extract that looks to help lungs work optimally and efficiently, as well as maintain the respiratory system. “Our new formulas provide effective, plant-based support before and during a respiratory challenge, and also help people maintain lung health all year long,” McElwee said. ”Like all Gaia Herbs’ products, consumers can have confidence that our newest products are assured for purity, potency and integrity, and that each ingredient has been either grown with care on our certified organic farm in North Carolina or ethically and sustainably sourced from our trusted farm partners, ensuring the highest quality products to help people stay healthy.” Following an initial launch on its website, Gaia Herbs expanded distribution to natural and health food stores nationwide in November.

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How Retailers are Driving Customers into Their Stores … Despite COVID-19 What exactly is digital currency? Digital currency can be used to exchange and store value, similar to gold or money. It empowers anyone to complete transactions anywhere in the world, instantly. The most popular is Bitcoin, but they also include other blockchain-based systems like Ethereum, as well as gaming currencies, stablecoins and digital tokens. This new technology allows anyone to manage and control their money without relying on legacy financial institutions.

Q&A with Coin Cloud CEO on How DCMs are Transforming the Retail Landscape The pandemic has created unprecedented challenges in the drugstore industry, on top of the steady channel blurring that has impacted it for years. With the rise of e-commerce and the risk of losing even more traffic, drug store retailers need to continue innovating if they want to attract and retain customers. Historically, self-serve kiosks have offered a solution. They boost the appeal of brick-and-mortar locations by providing easy access to new products and services, all under the same roof. But with more options for online shopping and streaming, even the strongest-performing kiosks like Redbox are seeing a decline in traffic and revenue. During quarantine, digital currency use has actually risen substantially, unlike most products and services. Digital currency machines (DCMs) promise the highest revenue per square foot of all kiosks, and have a solid future in drugstore chains. Drug Store News reached out to Chris McAlary, Founder and CEO of industry leader Coin Cloud, to find out how DCMs can positively impact the drugstore world.

Sponsored Content

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Who uses digital currency? This might come as a surprise but we see customers from every generation make use of digital currency, including moms, dads, college students, grandparents, employers and investors. Families use it to quickly and easily send money anywhere in the world, while artisans and businesses use it to buy supplies and receive payment from customers. Some view it as an investment vehicle, while others use it for day trading. Digital currency provides the easiest, fastest and safest way to participate in the global economy. Because of this, many of the 47 million immigrants and 55 million unbanked in the U.S. use it to manage their finances.

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Why would someone buy digital currency from a Coin Cloud machine? There are three main reasons why people choose to use a Coin Cloud DCM: Fast: Compared to other methods of purchasing digital currency, Coin Cloud DCMs save time. Instead of having to send your identification and banking information to an online platform, set up slow bank wire processes and wait for days to be approved, Coin Cloud machines let you instantly buy digital currency with just your phone number. Convenient: Coin Cloud DCMs are located in easily accessible places, like drug stores, where people are already going. This makes it just as easy to buy digital currency as it is to pick up a bottle of shampoo or bar of soap. And the interface is very familiar, like a touchscreen mobile device, making the learning curve minimal. Trustworthy: Submitting your personal information to a faceless online exchange can be scary. With a Coin Cloud machine, you have a physical kiosk, a real company name and a customer support number printed right on it. You can’t beat the trust you get from a real-world entity, whether that’s a brick-andmortar store or a kiosk you can touch — not to mention the peace of mind from transacting privately instead of with a person. Coin Cloud offers 30 digital currencies (the most in the industry) and is the only national operator with 100% two-way machines, which allow customers to both buy and sell digital currency with cash. This means eager consumers walking into the store with cash in hand, or withdrawing money to spend at your location.

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Are drug stores ready for digital currency machines? Revenue

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From competitors who don’t allow cash outs

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Only 100% two-way digital currency machine operator in the US

Yes, absolutely. The timing couldn’t be better. Coin Cloud paved the way for the industry to thrive in this country. Older generation DCMs have been growing at a rapid pace, and recently passed the 12,000-unit milestone worldwide in convenience stores and supermarkets. Customers are demanding more payment options and more flexibility with their finances than ever before. Coin Cloud gives drug stores another option to attract customers, build loyalty, and position themselves to better compete for wallet share. Not to mention the benefits of being among the first to market in this channel instead of having to keep up with competitors.

Digital currency adoption is growing at exponential rates; we’re seeing it embraced and offered by the world’s largest peer-to-peer payment and investing companies, including PayPal, Venmo, Square, Robinhood and more. Every major government and several of the world’s largest corporations, including Facebook and Amazon, are using blockchain technology to create their own currencies.

Why should retailers consider adding a Coin Cloud DCM to their stores? There are three reasons retailers should install a Coin Cloud DCM: You’ll attract highly coveted demographics to your locations, including millennials, who typically avoid traditional retail chains. The Gen-X, Gen-Y and Boomer generations who already shop at drug stores are drawn to the simplicity of our machines. DCMs are a destination service, bringing in hundreds of new users per month, while at the same time presenting a new resource for your current customers. You’ll see traffic from all over your metropolitan area because of the way we market your location as providing digital currency services on Facebook and in both Google and Apple Maps. In addition, once a customer is in your store to use our DCM, research shows that they stay to purchase other products and services, spending more than your average customer at the POS. You’ll enjoy the highest revenue per square foot in the store from our machine. With guaranteed income and a 1.9 square-foot footprint, Coin Cloud delivers the densest profitability per square foot in retail.

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What does a drug store owner have to do to put a Coin Cloud DCM in their stores? All we need is 16 inches of space and an outlet. We do everything else for you. We install, service, maintain and regulate our machines, while providing world-class service and support. We are the leader in DCM compliance and registered with FinCEN just like mainstream financial institutions, banks and the US Postal Service. So it’s a fully turnkey solution. Coin Cloud DCMs are future proof, providing a new standard for managing finances, and position our retail partners as technology leaders. Our vision is to have Coin Cloud DCMs in drug stores across the nation as we pursue our mission of bringing digital currency to all. To find out how to get a zero-cost, risk free pilot in your store(s), give our Business Development team a call at 855-431-0264, or email us at Partners@CoinCloudDCM.com

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FOCUS ON: SERALABS

What’s Inside Counts How SeraLabs’ focus on quality ingredients elevates its CBD offerings By Seth Mendelson

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t’s all about the trust factor, said Nancy Duitch, CEO of SeraLabs. Making consumers feel confident that the products they are purchasing are made from top-quality ingredients and do everything they are intended to do is the key to winning their loyalty. In the growing but still fledgling CBD category, trust is even more important as both consumers and retailers seek brands and companies that offer products that actually do what they say in a world that is full of concern about quality issues. SeraLabs is doing all it can to stay above the fray and make shoppers and merchants comfortable with any quality concerns. The Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based company offers more than 20 SKUs in the CBD wellness and pet categories, with a keen emphasis on offering quality products at affordable price points. “We use the most advanced scientific practices along with the highest quality ingredients to make sure that we have the best products in the marketplace,” said Duitch, who is also chief strategy officer for CURE Pharmaceutical, the parent company of SeraLabs, which acquired the health-and-wellness CBD company in early October. “We are all about our customers and providing products that will offer solutions to their wellness needs. We grow and manufacturer our products in the U.S.” She also said that SeraLabs uses both full-spectrum hemp and CBD isolate derived from hemp that is organically grown without herbicides or pesticides, in clean, toxin-free soil and water. The hemp is then sent to a CGMP FDA-approved facility for CO2 extraction. This process removes all metals and toxins, while capturing the CBD hemp extract

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that’s 99% pure and rich in therapeutic benefits. Also, all products at the company are tested by third-party laboratories for purity and consistency. “Our goal is to provide CBD products that are 100% safe to use and consume,” Duitch said. SeraLabs offers CBD tincture oils, gummies, capsules, pain and body topicals soothing creams, and pet tinctures for dogs and cats. Its antiaging skin care line with nine active antiaging ingredients is designed to address wrinkle and facial needs. “Our goal is to make SeraLabs the brand that everyone is looking for when shopping for CBD wellness products,” she said. “Through our marketing program, we want to show our retail partners that we are doing everything, including digital marketing, to get consumers to come to their stores to buy our products. “Once consumers try our products, we are extremely confident they will trust us and keep coming back because of our innovative, cuttingedge technology and superior ingredients.” dsn

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COUNTER TALK

Physician Dispensing and the Opioid Crisis What pharmacists need to know to keep opioid dispensing at the pharmacy counter By Jonathan Ni and Nicholas Benedict

E Jonathan Ni, writer, Physician-Dispensing.com

very day, roughly 130 people die in the United States from misuse of and addiction to opioids, including both prescription pain relievers, as well as drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Several studies have shown that use and misuse of prescription opiates are very significant drivers of heroin use. In addition to this human cost, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the financial cost of prescription opioid misuse to be more than $78 billion per year. With the spotlight being directed at prescription drug abuse, some observers have questioned whether physician dispensing programs are contributing to this opioid crisis.

Physician Dispensing Versus Pharmacy Dispensing

Nicholas Benedict, managing director, King, Edward, First

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Examining the impact of physician dispensing in office can be a highly charged issue, since economic incentives overlap with incentives around patient care, but do not match them perfectly. Put simply, when a doctor or other medical practitioner writes and then fills a prescription themselves, pharmacists are completely shut out of the process. Fewer patients and prescriptions to fill also mean less revenue for pharmacies. Many have questioned whether the economic incentives for doctors to engage in point-of-care dispensing distorts patient care and/or adds unnecessary costs to the healthcare system. While there are no studies that conclusively show that dispensing doctors specifically are more likely to prescribe opioids, industry observers have noted that economic incentives do consistently impact care decisions, including prescription decisions, made by some doctors and medical practitioners. Further studies have indicated that overprescribing is a major contributor to the opioid epidemic. Taking the pharmacist out of the process also can increase risk by removing a pharmacist’s expertise, as well as a second set of eyes. In the traditional method of pharmacy dispensing, that expertise and double-checking reduces the possibility of errors and/or malevolent drug interaction effects. One

in-office dispensing provider claims in its marketing material that clinics can dispense prescriptions within approximately two minutes, which does not leave much time for review or double-checking.

Physician Dispensing: Implications for Pharmacists If the only effects of dispensing prescriptions in office were increased risk of abuse or overprescriptions, pharmacist associations would have an easy time convincing regulators to curtail the practice. Instead, proponents of physician dispensing advance several arguments in favor of the practice, which point to challenges and opportunities in the traditional dispensing model. Physician dispensing companies often point out that between 20% and 30% of prescriptions in the United States are never filled. By making the process more convenient for patients (and removing the need for pharmacy visits), physician dispensing can improve patient medication adherence and, ultimately, patient outcomes. That patients often will knowingly pay more to purchase their medications directly from their doctor suggests that they very much value the convenience and time-saving of in-office dispensing. This presents a key implication for pharmacies to continue to invest in convenience.

Next Steps In order to respond to the downsides that physician dispensing poses to retail pharmacy, pharmacists and pharmacy organizations should respond along a variety of tracks, including pressing state regulators for more studies, more transparency and strict regulation around physician dispensing, in particular to address potential misalignment of incentives between doctor and patient, and to protect patient safety. In addition, they should note the perceived benefits to patients of the in-office drug dispensing model, such as convenience and privacy, and invest in their own capabilities in these areas. The good news is that many pharmacies have already done so and are doing so, with meaningful benefits to themselves and the patients they serve. dsn

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COUNTER TALK

Adapting to Thrive Amid the pandemic, retailers that focus on innovation will be able to do more than simply stay afloat By Patrick Spear

Patrick Spear, president and CEO, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow

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ver the course of the last 50 years, the retail industry has undergone its fair share of disruption. From the advent of e-commerce in the 1990s to the modernday ability to make a purchase with one tap from your mobile device, the industry has evolved, remaining agile when responding to significant eras of disruption by way of innovation. We now navigate the newest era of disruption, as the global COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything about how we as humans work, live and consume. What was true on Feb. 1, 2020 has changed dramatically, and likely forever. Various health measures and guidelines have been implemented and enforced amid the pandemic to ensure the health and safety of consumers. Social distancing protocols, limitations on the number of customers and time spent within a store, heightened sanitization processes, and store redesigns all have altered the in-person shopping experience drastically.

The nature of brick-and-mortar retail trips today is drastically different, and while retailers have capitalized on and must continue to leverage their essential status, consumers’ expectations for an interactive in-store experience has shifted. Consumer behavior will be different, but the stores must change their behavior as well to thrive in the COVID-19 era. Yet, many brick-and-mortar retailers are still committed to innovating and ensuring they provide their customers with an experience they can’t get anywhere else. The nature of brick-and-mortar retail trips today is drastically different, and while retailers have capitalized on and must continue to leverage their essential status, consumers’ expectations for an interactive in-store experience have shifted. Consumer behavior will be different, but the stores themselves must change their behavior as well to not only survive, but thrive in the COVID-19 era.

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In-store shoppers now are list-driven, making fewer, quicker trips to get what they need. This evolved consumer mindset stresses high-margin impulse sales that are vital to stores. Not only must stores ensure items are in stock, they must effectively position and cross-merchandise to preserve nonfood item sales that drive profit margins. More important now than ever is a commitment to customer and employee health and safety, and brick-and-mortar retail must focus on hygiene, cleanliness and personalization across the entire store. The winning shopping experience today and for the foreseeable future is one that prioritizes a customer’s ability to get in and out of a store in the safest, most hygienic way possible — all the while creating a positive, uplifting and tailored experience while a customer shops, so they know they can entrust their loyalty in the store for future visits. Already in the midst of a digital transformation prior to COVID-19, retail e-commerce and in-store technology are no longer options, but expectations. Thanks to the introduction of innovations like touchless and mobile payments, QR codes, virtual queuing, click-and-collect, and e-commerce options to buy online, pick up in store, or BOPIS, these alternative methods of retailing are now heavily relied upon and will become the new norm as we become increasingly aware of potential health risks. Online grocery sales have surged, and consumer shifts are now a habit. Retailers must continue to quickly scale their digital capabilities in order to meet the consumer’s needs in real time. This includes focusing on technology solutions to enhance the shopper experience, such as building out mobile checkout, BOPIS and delivery offerings. Throughout its existence, the retail industry has repeatedly proven its resiliency, and the COVID19 pandemic is only the latest era in a history of disruption. If anything is certain, it’s that retail will continue to demonstrate its ability to adapt, innovate and evolve alongside its consumers. dsn

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COUNTER TALK

The Pharmacy of the Future Begins with COVID-19 Community pharmacy’s strengths have shone throughout the pandemic By Mike Cihlar

Mike Cihlar, national vice president of pharmacy retail operations, McKesson

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s one of the most accessible and trusted healthcare providers, the role of the pharmacist continues to transform from simply dispensing medications to a responsibility for patient care. This has never been more important than today, during COVID-19. Pharmacists in all settings continue to transform their practices to provide safe and efficient care during the pandemic. Some of these steps may change the practice of pharmacy forever, giving pharmacists an opportunity to build on this difficult time to create the pharmacy of the future to improve patient care and outcomes.

Providing Care During COVID-19 While community pharmacies are essential to helping patients protect their health and wellness, people do want to limit their exposure. Pharmacies are working very hard to provide important healthcare services, while limiting exposure through such things as drive-thrus, curbside pickup and free delivery. Even as restrictions on healthcare services begin to ease, it is important that all community pharmacies facilitate a new pharmacy experience, and we encourage patients to use what works for them. According to pharmacist Ghada Abu Kuwaik of CureMed Pharmacy in Clifton, N.J., “We have the power to help people and Health Mart was the engine to help us make this happen in our area. I can’t thank them enough for what they did for us.” While cases surge and communities respond, the need for COVID-19 testing is being answered by front-line healthcare workers like pharmacists. Through a partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services and eTrueNorth, Health Mart is providing testing options to rural and underserved populations. In November 2020, participating Health Mart pharmacies collected more than 200,000 COVID-19 tests.

Expanding their Role as a Local Provider Right now, changes to normal procedures are designed to speed care delivery and reduce exposure

during COVID-19. Many of these traditional procedures will return as soon as the pandemic is over, but some may not because consumers will tell us what is important to them from a convenience standpoint. Many of these necessity-based, direct-to-patient processes could be explored and lead to an evolution of care. Community pharmacies already play an important role as a local healthcare provider, and we expect that this role will expand as a vaccine and treatments for COVID-19 are discovered. To stay competitive, independent pharmacies must look for new services and clinical offerings to provide differentiating value to keep the consumer engaged locally. This can include a robust front end designed to meet the needs of the community, durable medical equipment, critical point of care testing or an expanded vaccination program. One of the keys to expand the capabilities of pharmacies is building a well-trained and efficient team. Ensuring that all members of the pharmacy team are trained and well prepared to perform at the top of their license, credentials or training, allows pharmacists more time for patient consultation and delivery of value-add services. Pharmacist and technician training help community pharmacies remain at the cutting edge of practice and is available through state and national pharmacy associations and local pharmacy schools. Health Mart also offers a variety of online training options, including a Health Mart University course specific to COVID-19 testing.

The Future Is Here Community pharmacies distinguish themselves by providing a personalized patient experience. The differentiator for a pharmacy today, in addition to pharmacy performance, is to know their patients, keep tabs on their changing needs and expectations, and provide a patient-focused experience. They are in the perfect position to improve quality of life and clinical outcomes of patients and reduce healthcare costs with convenient and cost-effective solutions for prevention and wellness, medication adherence and condition management. dsn

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ONE-ON-ONE

The Right Stuff Asterra Labs brings experienced execs and a passion for quality and safety to CBD

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ormed by a group of pharmaceutical industry veterans in January of this year, CBD product manufacturer Asterra Labs was created to meet growing demand for CBD products. The Nashville, N.C.-based company also saw a relative lack of companies with the regulatory know-how to follow the Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines, and wanted to focus on creating high-quality products made from American-grown hemp. As it prepares for its latest round of product introductions, Melissa Cromer, Asterra Labs vice president of sales and marketing, spoke to Drug Store News about what the future holds for the company and the CBD category.

Drug Store News: Asterra’s executives have a long history in the pharmaceutical industry with developing products. How will that transfer over to the CBD industry? Melissa Cromer: Yes, we collectively have over 100 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry and are using that experience and expertise to bring quality, safe, effective cannabinoid products to market. We are actively formulating new dosage forms to include combination products with various cannabinoids. In addition, we understand the need and value of clinical data, so we were very excited to be participating in a safety study being conducted by ValidCare, a CRO. This national clinical trial will measure the potential liver effects in healthy adults ingesting either full/ broad spectrum hemp-derived CBD or CBD isolate, with over 1,000 participants. DSN: You are unveiling a new line of CBD products. Tell us about these items. What makes them unique? MC: Our first product launch was immediaterelease and extended-release tablets with potencies varying between 25 mg and 100 mg, packaged in unit-dose packaging to provide a consistent dosage form that

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sugar-free gummies and vegan gummies. Our products are manufactured according to FDA’s CGMP regulations and tested by a third-party laboratory to ensure that they are safe, quality products. We provide a QR code on each package so that the customer can obtain test data prior to purchasing our product to ensure safety and potency.

Melissa Cromer, vice president of sales and marketing, Asterra Labs

“Our next launch, which is scheduled for this month, will include various topicals, tincture and gummies. We will be launching several topicals, including muscle balm, cooling cream and eye cream.” is convenient and easy to take. Our next launch, which is scheduled for this month, will include various topicals, tinctures and gummies. We will be launching several topicals, including body cream, muscle balm, cooling cream and eye cream. In addition, we will offer peppermint tinctures, as well as a variety of gummies in 10-mg and 25-mg potencies, including sour gummies,

DSN: How do you plan to help retailers on sell-through to consumers in terms of in store and marketing support? MC: We provide point-of-sale materials to include trifold brochures, slim jim rack cards and several display options to include counter displays, floor displays and shelf displays. We also offer employee training to include videos, presentations, sales materials, either in person or remote, to meet the needs of our customers. Our industry veterans are also available to speak at sales conferences or trade shows to provide support. DSN: What does the future look like for your Asterra Labs? MC: The future of Asterra Labs is bright. We are going to continue to develop and formulate new products, participate in clinical trials, and partner with quality suppliers to bring pharma-grade alternative medicines to the market. We want to be recognized as a quality, reliable, safe supplier of effective cannabinoid products and alternative medicines. Because of the current lack of regulation, the quality and ingredients in products being marketed today are oftentimes untested, putting consumers at risk if they don’t do their research and choose a manufacturer who voluntarily follows regulations. Thus, the FDA can step in to ensure that consumers who want to use cannabinoid products can do so safely. We look forward to FDA regulation in this market to provide legitimacy and ensure only safe products are made available to consumers like our products at Asterra Labs. dsn

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ONE-ON-ONE

New Name, Same Service Newly rebranded iA, formerly Innovation Associates, is looking to highlight its prescriptionfulfillment capabilities for retailers

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t’s been a whirlwind year for the newly rebranded iA. Acquired last November by a consortium led by Wasson Enterprise, the company has a new CEO, Marvin Richardson, and a new brand identity. Richardson, who took the reins in April, said he is excited about the rebranding of the company and how it will help communicate with pharmacists. He spoke with DSN about the rebrand and what it means for the industry. Drug Store News: Tell us what is going on at iA, including the rebranding you have implemented. Marvin Richardson: There is a massive opportunity to unleash the full potential of pharmacy, and this is what is driving our rebrand. At iA, we are looking to partner with pharmacy providers to provide centralized fulfilment solutions that optimize prescription fulfillment. In doing so, we are able to help pharmacy providers offer enhanced patient choice while creating time for pharmacists to deliver impactful patient care. The challenges of 2020 have reinforced our motivation and serve as the catalyst for iA’s renewed commitment to unleashing the full potential of pharmacy. DSN: What is the thought process behind the company’s rebranding? MR: The significance of our work, especially in these challenging times for pharmacists, led us to look at ourselves and challenge ourselves on where we want to go as a company. At the heart of iA, we are passionate about pharmacy. Everything we do is designed to enable pharmacists to make a difference in the health and well-being of their patients. By inventing and developing leading-edge software-driven pharmacy automation solutions for every type of pharmacy — from retail to mail order and central fill — iA works to unleash the full potential of pharmacy in partnership with pharmacy providers.

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pharmacy fulfillment is the way to do this. That’s why iA has recommitted itself to providing pharmacy providers with an accelerated approach to realizing software-driven pharmacy automation solutions that are customized for any pharmacy environment. This is pharmacy’s time, and the time for centralization is now. The future holds limitless possibilities, and iA is passionately committed to the optimum use and expansion of our intelligent software and technology — to transform the industry, to help improve the health and well-being of patients across the country and around the world. We’re excited to partner and work together to unleash the full potential of pharmacy. Marvin Richardson, CEO, iA

“This is pharmacy’s time, and the time for centralization is now. We’re excited to partner and work together to unleash the full potential of pharmacy.” DSN: Tell us about your initiatives in the months and year ahead. MR: For years, pharmacists have been regarded as one of the most trusted and convenient healthcare providers. Their position on the front line of health care will be invaluable to our nation’s health and wellness as vaccines become available for COVID-19. In order to help meet demand, pharmacy providers will need to adjust workload for pharmacists. We believe centralization and automation of

DSN: Most importantly, how does this benefit the retail community and what do retailers need to do to maximize the potential from your company? MR: Technology and centralization are going to play a significant role in the advancement of community pharmacy now and into the future. Centralized fulfillment has the ability to remove dispensing work from pharmacies, freeing up what we’re estimating is up to 60% of a pharmacist’s time to focus on front-line patient services. Without this reduction in dispensing work, we cannot expect our nation’s retail pharmacists to continue to play such an important role without reducing some of their daily workload. At iA, we have invented and developed a suite of leading-edge software-driven pharmacy automation solutions. The majority of prescriptions written are for chronic conditions, which allows for them to be electronically routed from the pharmacy to a centralized fulfillment facility, and enabling patient choice for receiving them. This frees up valuable time for pharmacists to provide additional patient services. Let’s all work together to unleash the full potential of pharmacy. dsn

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COUNTER TALK

A Leading Role Helping pharmacists grow their profile in the healthcare ecosystem By Amanda Epp

P Amanda Epp, CEO, ScriptDrop

harmacists have long been an important part of the U.S. healthcare system, yet there is opportunity for them to take on a larger role in the ecosystem. This is particularly the case when it comes to patient care, which can significantly offset the current burden on physicians and contribute to improved patient outcomes in the face of the current pandemic and beyond. While there is no downplaying the primary role of the physician, pharmacists are often considered the most accessible and one of the most trusted of any healthcare professional. Yet, today’s pharmacists have been artificially restricted from more meaningful contributions, even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The American healthcare system has become sidetracked with a multitude of issues. In order to remedy the diminished role of pharmacists in the healthcare ecosystem, the industry must rectify a few key issues.

It is obvious that pharmacists can and do make a positive impact on American health care, but the entire industry needs to be willing to recognize, embrace and support them as more responsibilities are added to their roles. For one, because pharmacists can only bill under the pharmacy benefit, they are currently undercompensated for their service and have no incentive to do more. In fact, some physicians and even pharmacists argue that there is no good reason to expand the pharmacist’s role. Any conversations about the expansion of pharmacy services or pharmacists’ scope of practice must also consider how they will be paid. This could include the expanded ability to bill medical insurance for consultation and patient education, followed by documentation into an electronic health record. Pharmacists are not coming to take away jobs, but they are needed for better health care. Second, the continuum of care and amplifying the role of pharmacists remain important because

America is facing a marked shortage of physicians, as many are part of the baby boomer generation and are retiring, which subsequently is increasing the need for healthcare providers. Pharmacists can bridge some of the shortage by offering more care management and patient follow-up into their respective pharmacy practice. The Association of American Medical Colleges forecasts the shortfall will be between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033. The shortage problem is not specific to one branch of care either — about half of the projected shortfall represents primary care doctors and the other half represents specialists. By upping their role and treating them as part of the medical team, today’s pharmacists can be better equipped to meaningfully contribute to patient care, build relationships with physicians and add more revenue. Finally, pharmacists must have access to the technologies that are suitable to support a more prominent role in patient care. Innovations such as prescription delivery platforms that allow for direct integration into a pharmacy’s system can become an important piece of the puzzle. They enable the pharmacist to see whether patients are picking up their medication or abandoning it. They are more likely to know if the patient is getting the supplies needed to properly administer complex therapy. Consider that as of 2016, almost half of Americans took at least one prescription every day, and 24% took three or more. At ScriptDrop, we saw firsthand how something as simple as picking up medication from a local pharmacy was deemed dangerous when the pandemic hit. And with “shelter in place” orders staying in effect for weeks, it impacted pharmacists who needed additional options for home delivery. It is obvious that pharmacists can and do make a positive impact on American health care, but the entire industry needs to be willing to recognize, embrace and support them as more responsibilities are added to their roles. That is why it is essential to pair our recognition for improving their working conditions, reimbursement and access to technology if we want to expand and transform their role in health care. dsn

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SELFCARE ROADMAP INSIGHTS

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nowing how consumers are shopping is crucial to merchandising in a way that will successfully drive bigger baskets and higher sales. Recognizing this, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow and Hamacher Resource Group created the Selfcare Roadmap, a tool that can identify opportunities and reveal how forward-looking practices can remake the shopping experience, while inspiring new merchandising and service models that make an impact throughout the store. The tool, which only is available to GMDC|Retail Tomorrow members, demonstrates how to optimize shoppers’ health, beauty, personal care and wellness experiences, as well as how to drive new avenues for profitability by offering more than 140 insights and infographics that can be sorted by category of self-care occasion. This month, the companies have shared insights with Drug Store News about shoppers or caregivers who are focused on managing a chronic condition or long-term illness. dsn Maintaining

POPULATION AGE

OTC RECOMMENDATIONS 0.3% Other HCP 1.7% Clinician 2.0% Nutritionist

AVERAGE AGE

0.7% Dietitian

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3.4% Naturopath 9.2% Friends/family

Almost

14.9% Own Research

of consumer decisions are influenced by friends, family, and their own research

44%

30%

10%

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INFLUENCERS

3.1% Nurse

DEMOGRAPHICS

16%

Maintaining

53-71

37-52

72+

25%

Key insight: The average age for those in the maintaining segment is 51.

Maintaining

20.3% Pharmacist

SHOPPING HABITS Natural/ Specialty Internet Dollar Store Club

3.4% 2.8%

PREFERRED OUTLET

5.1% 4.5%

Maintaining

7.8% 6.3%

General

9.8% 7.3%

Grocery Drug Store Mass/Discounter

15.3% 17.0% 27.8% 29.1% 30.8% 33.0%

Key insight: Drug stores and mass/discounters account for more than 55% of this group’s preference; however, club and dollar store channels over-indexed.

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44.4% Physician

Key insight: Physicians and pharmacists top the influencers for this segment of the selfcare market, with approximately twothirds of respondents relying on these resources.

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PRODUCTS TO WATCH

New and Noteworthy HRG’s picks for the five standout products from November

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ith fall in full swing, CPG companies introduced 115 new products in November, as measured by Hamacher Resource Group. The Waukesha, Wis.based company’s new product team then took up the mantle of sifting through the product launches to find five that had big potential on the shelf and also represent serious innovation in a product category. From the 19 OTC products, 81 wellness products and 15 beauty launches, these are the five that stood out:

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Nivea Breathable Lotion Fresh Fusion

With its second appearance this month, Beiersdorf added to its Nivea brand’s lineup with a skin-nourishing gel meant to allow skin to breathe. Nivea Breathable Lotion uses microgel technology, a patent-pending approach that uses polar oils to help with faster sweat evaporation. The lotion is formulated to leave skin soft without leaving behind a sticky residue.

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Amlactin Rapid Relief Restoring Cream

Sandoz’s skin care brand Amlactin’s latest product is looking to tackle fine lines and wrinkles. Amlactin Rapid Relief Restoring Cream contains 15% lactic acid, three ceramides and dimethicone to provide 24-hour moisturization and reduce lines and wrinkles. The cream also is formulated to dry quickly without leaving residue.

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Oceanblue Omega-3 with COQ10 Softgels

Oceanblue is looking to position its newest product as a complete heart-health formula. The product combines 100 mg of omega-3 and COQ10 in a single softgel. The softgels also contain D-limonene as an anti-burping agent and an orange flavoring to provide a pleasant aroma and taste.

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Aquaphor Baby Fast Relief Diaper Rash Paste

Beiersdorf is rounding out the baby offerings from its Aquaphor brand with a fast-acting diaper rash paste that features its highest zinc oxide content — 40%. Besides the zinc oxide, the product uses shea butter to offer fast relief, with the company claiming a notable difference in one use. The product also is designed to be easy to apply and clean, while being odorless and free of fragrance, talc and parabens, as well as hypoallergenic.

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Refresh Relieva PF Lubricant Eye Drops

Allergan expanded its Refresh Relieva line with a preservativefree lubricant eye drop in 30 single-dose containers. The product uses Allergan’s proprietary HydroCell technology, which is formulated to enable hydration and maintain the volume of cells on the ocular surface. The unit-dose formula is meant to offer relief for dry, burning and irritated eyes, including that caused by LASIK. It also prevents further irritation. dsn

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CBD NEWS

Premium Relieve from cbdMD Combines Lidocaine, CBD

The Vitamin Shoppe Rolls Out Two CBD House Brands The Vitamin Shoppe is tossing its hat into the CBD ring with the debut of two lines of private-label CBD products under its Vthrive The Vitamin Shoppe and plnt brands. Secaucus, N.J.-based The Vitamin Shoppe said the products were developed to meet growing demand for accessible, quality CBD from trusted sources. The products include tinctures and capsule formulas, available exclusively at The Vitamin Shoppe and Super Supplement stores, as well as the specialty retailer’s website. “Bringing these new CBD products to market is a decisive milestone in the expansion of our private-brands business and The Vitamin Shoppe’s commitment to industry-leading innovation,” said CEO Sharon Leite. “The exceptional skill and knowledge of our product development and scientific and regulatory teams delivered a range of CBD formulas that are second to none in this dynamic product category. Our ingredient purity, unique CBD extraction methods and rigorous testing guarantees the highest level of quality from farm to lab to shelf. This launch further establishes The Vitamin Shoppe as the trusted national destination for CBD innovation and as a leader in health-and-wellness solutions.” The private-label products are sold alongside more than 20 other brands in The Vitamin Shoppe’s recently launched CBD HQ section, which offers an assortment of CBD formulations — from tinctures and capsules to gummies and beverages, as well as beauty products and topical CBD. CBD HQ launched at 582 locations and Super Supplement stores, with another 143 offering a CBD selection of topical and beauty products. The plnt and Vthrive The Vitamin Shoppe CBD lines offer three tiers of potency and blends that are focused on offering need-state solutions. The products range in price from $24.99 to $69.99, depending on potency and added therapeutic ingredients. The Vthrive The Vitamin Shoppe line offers a premium selection of broad-spectrum CBD products with clean ingredients, including stand-alone CBD oil in tinctures and veggie capsules, as well as blends meant to help users meet specific wellness goals. Tinctures are available in peppermint, chocolate mint and unflavored varieties in potencies of 15 mg, 35 mg and 55 mg per serving. The capsules offer the same three levels of potency. As for the solution-focused blends, each contains 35 mg of CBD per serving in liquid capsules. The plnt brand, which also has full-spectrum CBD extract, is free of synthetic ingredients and preservatives, as well as artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners. Plnt tinctures are sold in potencies of 10 mg, 20 mg and 40 mg of CBD per serving in vanilla and unflavored varieties. The plnt vegetarian liquid capsules offer 10 mg, 20 mg and 35 mg of CBD per serving.

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Popular brand cbdMD is augmenting its topical offerings with the debut of Premium Relieve. The product combines cbdMD’s broad-spectrum CBD formula with 4% lidocaine to provide temporary relief from minor muscle aches and pains. Premium Relieve sets itself apart by being one of the few CBD topicals available in an aerosol spray form, cbdMD said, touting the product’s bag-on-valve technology, which allows the product to spray at any angle. “Topicals have never been more popular for consumers, with more and more products adding CBD to their formulas these days,” said Ken Cohn, cbdMD’s chief marketing officer. “At cbdMD, we’re revolutionizing the topical market by introducing innovative products that continue to lead in each category. With Premium Relieve, we are proud to now offer an expanded topicals line that is well-rounded and balanced, with broad appeal to not only health-minded individuals, but anyone seeking to enhance their personal wellness.” The Premium Relieve spray joins cbdMD’s other topical products, including Premium Freeze Pain Relieving Formula, one of the 2020 Product of the Year Winners, as well as Premium Recover Pain Relieving Formula, which contains histamine dihydrochloride and broad-spectrum CBD in a moisturizing, scent-free cream.

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CBD NEWS

Medterra Refreshes, Grows its All-Natural Pet-Focused Collection In an effort to keep its products fresh for pets, Medterra is adding to its Medterra Pets collection with all-natural chews and tinctures for cats and dogs, with a focus on need-specific offerings. “As a research-driven company, our data shows that pet parents are looking for safe and natural alternatives that can give their pets the best quality of life,” said Medterra CEO Jay Hartenbach. The company said the product line is clinically tested, formulated by veterinarians and compliant

with National Animal Supplement Council standards. Medterra also recruited its medical ambassadors, including veterinarian Lisa Lippman, as advisory board members who provide industryrelated counsel to the company. “Safety and efficacious products are our top concern for our Medterra community, and our Medterra Pets collection is no exception in meeting our strict standards,” Hartenbach said. The collection includes CBD Chews in 10- and 30-count packs in two formulas — Calming and Joint Support — featuring such flavors as bacon, peanut butter and a new salmon option. Each non-GMO chew contains 10 mg of CBD and is grain- and THCfree. The collection also includes CBD tinctures in unflavored, beef and chicken varieties that contain organic MCT oil and organic natural flavors. Dosage strengths range from 150 mg to 750 mg per bottle.

High Beauty, Ligos Partner on Cosmetics with Rare Cannabinoids Specialty ingredients company Lygos is working with cannabis sativa-powered beauty brand High Beauty in a new co-development and commercial partnership. High Beauty and Lygos CBx will develop co-branded cosmetics formulated with naturally derived rare cannabinoids, including cannabigerol, or CBG. The first product to launch from this collaboration is the High & Bye Refining Oil and Clearing Gel, which include Lygos-CBG, meant to help target blemish-prone skin. “High is expertly formulated with cannabis sativa seed oil in combination with bioflavonoids and terpenes to provide all the nutrients needed for healthy, beautiful skin,” said Melissa Jochim, founder and formulator of High Beauty. “We are now able to enhance our new High & Bye collection with Lygos’ pure Lygos-CBG.” Lygos CBx uses a novel production pathway to extract unique and valuable compounds that are otherwise difficult to isolate from the plant, according to Lygos. Its THC-free line of cannabinoids are focused on purity, performance and sustainability. “Lygos’ proprietary technology platform delivers market-leading quality, purity and formulation-precision at a significant cost and time advantage relative to ingredients derived from the cannabis plant,” said Eric Steen, CEO of Lygos. “This partnership with the High Beauty team is a huge step forward in the beauty and cosmetic market for the Lygos CBx business. We are now providing kilograms of sustainable products that are naturally inspired and go beyond the plant.”

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FOCUS ON: HYLAND’S

Time to Shine As shoppers look for natural and homeopathic products, Hyland’s extensive selection is ready to deliver BY SETH MENDELSON

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bout 50 years ago, officials at Hyland’s made the decision to put all their eggs in one basket: natural and homeopathic medications. Today, as more and more consumers look for safer medications for their families, many are turning to Hyland’s as the source for natural and homeopathic products. The results for the 117-year-old company have been outstanding, with company officials noting that sales have grown at solid double-digit annual rates for nearly all of the last two and a half decades. Not bad for a company that was started by eight physicians in a basement in downtown Los Angeles in 1903. The bottom line is that as demand for natural and homeopathic medications rapidly increases, Hyland’s, which is still based in Los Angeles, has positioned itself at the forefront of many of these segments. In fact, Les Hamilton, the company’s president, proudly talks about how Hyland’s is a national leader in sales in a number of areas, including internal analgesics — leg, oral pain-baby and earache relief, as well as pediatric and baby cough-cold. “I think a big key to our success is the fact that we develop and tailor products to consumer needs,” said Hamilton, who joined the company in 2011 after seven years with The Emerson Group and 10 years at Target. “We offer natural and homeopathic products that are safe and effective for people from the cradle to the elderly. Consumers have

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come to understand how we go to market and how we can address so many ailments — from dealing with leg cramps to earaches and cough and cold issues for babies — naturally.” Today, privately owned Hyland’s offers about 380 SKUs with around 75 dedicated to the mass retail industry. In addition to the categories listed above, Hyland’s also is a major player in the adult analgesics, sleep and stress, first aid, and topical analgesics segments, though the company may be best known for its wide array of products for babies and its 4Kids line for children between the ages of 2 and 12 years old. There is little doubt that Hyland’s also is benefiting from consumers’ growing interest in natural and homeopathic medicines for many ailments. Over the last two decades, industry officials have observed a huge increase in demand for these products as consumers ask for alternatives to traditional products. Retailers have responded by including more natural and homeopathic options in their healthcare mix, though sometimes placing these items separate from traditional brands. “We are happy to see more retailers getting involved with natural and homeopathic products, but we think that retailers can maximize sales by placing these products together so that consumers can evaluate the different items and choose what they want to purchase,” Hamilton said. “Moms like to shop by condition, so we think it makes a lot of sense for retailers to place our

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products together with other products from the same segment.” It also shows just how important education is to the future growth of the category. Hamilton said that Hyland’s places a great emphasis on educating retailers about how to market and sell natural and homeopathic products, including conducting headquarter and store seminars with retailers to teach them about the items and how best to merchandise and sell them. The company also offers H2U, a comprehensive homeopathic university that allows retailers to gain essential knowledge about treatment options and learn best practices in selling the products. It also is designed to educate retailers about how to provide informed options to customers and to be recognized as a well-informed resource on homeopathy in the process. Educating the consumer also is a big and extremely important part of the strategy to increase natural and homeopathic sales, in general, and make consumers more aware of the many categories that Hyland’s does business in. While more people are interested in these products than ever before, Hamilton said that there is still a lot of work to be done teaching them about the difference between them and traditional items. “Our goal is to get consumers to try our products for a specific ailment,” he said. “Once they do, and they realize that they worked, we are convinced they will keep coming back to our brand, time and time again.” To that end, Hyland’s brought in a new vice president of marketing about a year ago to help bring the brand to the forefront. It launched its first TV advertising campaign in five top markets — Minneapolis, Chicago, northwest Arkansas, St. Louis, and Charlotte, N.C. — in October. “We want to get our name out there,” Hamilton said. “We want consumers to see who we are and what we do and be top of mind

when they are looking for products to help them feel better.” Formed as Standard Homeopathy Pharmacy in 1903, George Hyland purchased the company in 1910. Thirteen years later, Mr. Hyland hired Cecil Craig and put him in charge of the manufacturing lab. Craig developed an aspirin for children, a formulated pink aspirin tablet that dissolved almost instantly and is the precursor for Hyland’s quick-dissolving tablets, a hallmark feature of many of the company’s top-selling medicines today. Craig made the decision to manufacture and distribute mostly homeopathic medicines in the 1960s. “Our big jump in sales came in the mid-1980s with our first foray into mass market retailers,” Hamilton said. “We started to move from specialty stores and into more traditional outlets. That really fueled our growth. Walmart was actually our first major retailer when they started to stock our products in the early 1990s.” Hamilton said he is excited about the future of the company. While noting that Hyland’s is always looking at new categories to enter, as well as expanding existing segments, he said that maintaining a relationship with retailers and consumers remains at the forefront. “We launched five new adult pain products in the summer and two natural arthritis products with many more to come in various categories in the foreseeable future. That shows our commitment to new items,” he said. “But it is the relationships we have built over these many years that mean the most to us. We have been around for a while, and it is that trust we have made with the trade and with our consumers that has put us in this position. The bottom line is that we deliver what we say we are going to deliver. We are dedicated to making safe, effective and natural healthcare solutions easily accessible to all.” dsn

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PHARMACY INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR 2020

Rite Aid’s RxEvolutionary NEW Approach With new leadership and an overhauled go-to-market strategy, Rite Aid is moving forward with purpose B Y

D A V I D

Rite Aid is going in a new direction.

After two scrapped acquisitions and various C-suite changes in the past five years, the company is ready to carve out a space for itself in the retail pharmacy and pharmacy services spaces with a new approach to how it uses its pharmacists, a new store format and an ovehauled merchandising strategy. It is also looking to establish a stronger ecommerce and omnichannel offering — all alongside a rebranded PBM that is looking to position itself as a mid-market leader. In exclusive conversations with Drug Store News, executives from the Camp Hill, Pa.-based chain made clear that the entire rollout of their new strategy, titled RxEvolution — no small feat in a regular year, but downright audacious during a global pandemic — is designed to

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S A L A Z A R

strengthen the company’s position among patients and consumers. It will also build bridges with any organizations looking for a PBM partner that is not also owned by an insurer. In addition, it puts the pharmacist, whose role is being expanded with Rite Aid’s new approach to be more consultative and more able to engage with patients who need assistance with OTC product or with clinical services, at the center of this transformation. For all of these reasons, Drug Store News has named Rite Aid its 2020 Pharmacy Innovator of the Year. Heyward Donigan, who was named CEO in August 2019, and COO Jim Peters, who joined a month after Donigan’s appointment, have made the company’s turnaround an imperative, and,

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PHARMACY INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR 2020

as Donigan put it, ushered in a “significant end-to-end change” at the retailer, which operates more than 2,400 stores in 17 states. With a growth target demographic in mind — Gen X and millennial women, who comprise roughly a third of the population — and a small army of pharmacists and pharmacy techs, as well as a PBM, at their disposal, the two executives hit the ground running. “Our vision was not to incrementally change Rite Aid,” Peters said. “We knew that we had an opportunity and, frankly, a mandate to demonstrably and significantly change what Rite Aid meant to the community, our shareholders and the broader healthcare value chain. For us, the RxEvolution is at the heart of how we plan to do that.” “We have the ability to be extremely nimble, very focused in our communities, and we’re really excited about our markets and our ability to move faster.”

No Longer Behind the Counter

Donigan is clear about the fact that the RxEvolution starts with the chain’s pharmacists, and while there is a rebranding, new logo and new store format — dubbed the “Store of the Future” — that comes along with the RxEvolution, the cosmetic changes are just the tip of the iceberg that she calls a “significant end-to-end change.” “What we’ve done is we have rolled out an entirely new brand and identity, along with a new brand promise at all of our stores,” Donigan said. “That means not just a new façade and a beautiful new logo, it means a wholesale change to our merchandise and a wholesale change to the promise of what the pharmacist and the front-end teams are expected to deliver to their customers.” In an effort to make pharmacists more consultative, the company has invested in making sure that the industry-staple concept of freeing up the pharmacist is actually happening to enable more customer touchpoints. “You can’t just say you’re going to free up a pharmacist’s time,” Donigan added. “You have to have capacity, workflow changes and trained

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December 2020 DRUGSTORENEWS.COM

technicians who are proficient.” In order to figure out how to enable pharmacists to spend their time out from behind the counter, Rite Aid focused on a group of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians and analyzed workflow that provided insight into how to best spend their time. Among the takeaways Donigan pointed out was pharmacists typically spend too much time doing work that could be delegated to pharmacy techs, many of whom just needed better training to rise to the occasion. Another critical takeaway for structuring pharmacists’ days was that most patients will come to pick up their medications between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., with acute prescription needs coming mostly in the morning. With these insights in hand, Donigan said pharmacy technicians are armed with training and the time needed to fill prescriptions is spent in ways that allow pharmacists to be approachable during the peak prescription pickup for clinical services — including medication management and immunizations, which soon will include the COVID-19 vaccine — comprising roughly 20% of a pharmacist’s day. Pharmacists also play a critical role in

personalizing the store experience for patients and highlighting OTC offerings for various needs. Donigan said that the company is highlighting certain categories near the pharmacy — beginning with immunity, which has grown in interest during the pandemic — to enable patients to ask pharmacists questions about the categories. Armed with tip sheets and sixhour certifications as integrative specialists, the company’s more than 6,300 pharmacists are able to walk patients through any questions they may have about the category being showcased (future pharmacyadjacent categories will include sleep and pain management). “We’re positioning our pharmacists as whole-health advocates to offer personalized health recommendations and consultations for all members of our community who come into a Rite Aid,” Peters said. “They’re ready to provide personalized tips on everyday health questions — how to get sounder sleep, alleviate stress, support immunity and address pain. These are things that are often not diagnosed or not treated among our target demographic, but critically important inputs to quality of life.”


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PHARMACY INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR 2020

Know Thy Customer — and Meet Them Online

The theory with Rite Aid’s RxEvolution is it is not enough to change how the pharmacist spends their time to enable customer interactions. There also has to be a mix of merchandise that is relevant to the typical Rite Aid shopper and the company’s target growth demographic. “We’re building an experience that speaks to a whole net new customer base for us,” Peters said. “Millennial and Gen X women are taking care of not only themselves but also their children, their aging parents, their spouses and their pets. These women are a significant portion of our current drug store shopper across the industry, and we realized that we needed to have a strategy that was underpinned by a number of components that allow us to win.” While unlocking the pharmacy’s value is part of that, so is revitalizing the retail and digital experience for Rite Aid’s customers. It starts with a merchandising overhaul, led by chief merchandising and marketing officer Erik Keptner, who joined the company in May 2019. The company assessed categories that were slow turning or not relevant to the consumers — including motor oil, clothing and electronics — and deleted them from their merchandise mix. On the other hand, Rite Aid also is bolstering its offerings in better-for-you consumables, trendy skin care and the aforementioned pharmacist-assisted OTC mix, as well as adding some air to the planogram and trying to inject some fun into the shopping experience while supporting holistic health and well-being. “We’re not just about getting healthy, we’re about getting thriving,” Donigan told DSN in March when the RxEvolution was unveiled. “And thriving is not just about not drinking soda and getting the right medications. It’s about having fun. It’s not a clinical experience, it’s a ‘radiating wellness and getting thriving’ experience that’s fun and nonjudgmental.” Besides the right merchandising mix, Rite Aid also is focused on meeting its consumers where they are — largely online, particularly throughout the pandemic. “We’re not white-knuckling onto

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One Year In, Full Steam Ahead Left to right: Heyward Donigan, Rite Aid president and CEO, and Jim Peters, Rite Aid COO

By the time Rite Aid’s board of directors named Heyward Donigan the company’s president and CEO last August, the search had gone on for five months. Once appointed, Donigan immediately rolled up her sleeves and got to work — and little more than a year later, the results are starting to show. In her 15 months with the company, Donigan has approached overhauling Rite Aid’s go-to-market approach with fearlessness and conviction that she’s doing exactly what needs to be done to right the ship. “I had to be fearless,” she said. “You can’t take this job and be fearful. It was a scary thing to think about, taking over a company that had sold off many of its stores, with this level of debt and starting all over in an industry that is a really hard business.” One of the key tools she has implemented is lean methodology, which was used to assess which of the company’s inventory wasn’t turning, and which to ultimately invest in for growth. She noted that bringing lean methodology to bear on Rite Aid’s operations also has helped reduce the company’s working capital by $200 million this year. Donigan said that the methodology boils down to using front-line associates to identify areas for improvement and gather data, then using the insights gathered to inform new efforts. “What you do is you slow down to go fast,” she said. “Slow down and look at the data and use the data to guide you. Once you have spent time to gather that data and understand those stats, you can go so fast and change things quickly.” She noted that having executives in place that are at the top of their fields — in a strategy that was slightly ahead of the COVID-induced remote work curve, the company has taken a hiring approach that focuses on the best hires regardless of geography — has been a boon. “I’m all about the team,” she said. “To me, nothing matters without the people, because without them, nothing gets done and I’m really excited to have a wonderful mix of tenured Rite Aid executives and new outside talent.” She noted that CFO Matt Schroeder and chief human resources officer Jessica Kazmaier have both been with the company nearly 20 years, and chief pharmacy officer Jocelyn Konrad has been with the company for 13 years, since Rite Aid acquired Brooks Eckerd. Among the new names is COO Jim Peters, who Donigan said she handpicked for his mix of healthcare background, investment capital background, and knowledge of health systems and pharmacy. Also new is Andre Persaud, head of retail, who is a pharmacist by training and also has extensive experience in executing retail goals. Though not a Donigan hire, chief information officer Justin Mennen has helped lead the company’s digital overhaul. With a team in place and her eyes firmly fixed on Rite Aid’s RxEvolution, Donigan said the company is ready for the work ahead. “I talk to our teams about being the little engine that could,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of power in being smaller and more nimble, and it is my expectation that we’ll continue at this pace for some time.” —David Salazar

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From one innovator to another

The Compliance Team congratulates RITE AID PHARMACY on their Innovator of the Year Award. For over 25 years, TCT has lead the way with Innovative Solutions and Simplified Process to accreditation. Our provider centric approach delivers standards that are patient-centered for Pharmacy, DME and Rural Health Clinic practices.

TheComplianceTeam.org 215-654-9110

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PHARMACY INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR 2020

the physical brick-and-mortar store as the only vessel through which we will create value for our consumers,” Peters explained. “We’ve really needed to place a concerted effort on the omnichannel experience in a way that we had never done at Rite Aid.” He noted that while the pandemic moved up the timeline on Rite Aid’s expanded digital offerings, it did not catch the company unprepared. “The reality is that this was always a part of our strategy,” he said, noting that the company began supporting more than 15 times its historical product volume by late March and April — a trend that has continued in the ensuing months.

Offering an Elixir

Alongside its retail strategy, Rite Aid also has an ace in the hole for growing its business and opening up new partnerships and revenue streams. Unlike many of the changes, the company’s PBM is not new to the company, but Donigan noted that it has been underutilized. Purchased as EnvisionRxOptions in 2015 in an effort to diversify the business, the newly rebranded Elixir encompasses

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PBM services — including Medicare Part D programs — a mail-order pharmacy service, specialty services, savings programs and various other components that include third-party rebate administration and claims adjudication. Donigan and recently named Elixir president Dan Robson see Elixir as a way for Rite Aid to gain a foothold in the $400 billion PBM market among clients who want an independent PBM offering. “Our main differentiators are that that Elixir is the only PBM that’s not aligned to health plans and also that it has a retail pharmacy footprint,” Robson said. “This allows us to have a higher degree of vertical integration with neighborhood pharmacies. While our transformation will take some time — I believe a couple of years — we remain bullish on Elixir and believe it represents the biggest long-term growth opportunity for the organization.” The state of Washington has been identified as a high-priority market, and Rite Aid’s recent purchase of Seattle-based chain Bartell Drugs is part of its efforts to strengthen its standing in a market dominated by a few regional health plans and

health systems. “This makes us No. 1 in the market hands down, not only in terms of stores but in terms of scripts and our ability to really shape health care in the state of Washington,” Donigan said, noting that many of the health plans partner with the big three PBMs aligned with larger payers out of necessity. She said Elixir can help offer a unique approach. “It would be exciting if Elixir and Rite Aid partnered with some of the major health systems there to offer telehealth in our stores and clinical programs for their members, where the pharmacies are just an extension of the health system,” she added. “We have a once-in-alifetime opportunity to engage consumers in ways we’ve never seen before in health care. This is not only an opportunity for Rite Aid but for Rite Aid as an integrated pharmacy offering with Elixir.” Robson noted: “We can deliver a differentiated solution to improve cost of care and quality metrics in tandem with Rite Aid and Health Dialog to close care gaps. Elixir is laser focused on helping orchestrate the patient experience across all channels with a priority on driving digital adoption and upgrading our tool kit.” Health Dialog provides personalized, analytics-driven health management services, including member health coaching and medication adherence, to close gaps in care. With the three pillars in place — empowered, knowledgeable pharmacists; a unique and targeted merchandising approach with omnichannel support; and a PBM that can make inroads in promising markets — Donigan and her leadership team are looking ahead with optimism. Since taking the helm, Donigan said she has seen several promising trends, including consistency in meeting earnings guidance and growing market share. But she and Peters acknowledge there is still work to be done. “It’s going to be a fast and furious over the next two years as we have to keep up with our customers, and they are a demanding lot, as they should be,” Donigan said. Peters highlights the chain’s drive and determination. “We won’t be out-hustled,” he said.

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PHARMACY INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR 2020

If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It Rite Aid’s pharmacies and pharmacists are at the center — literally — of its Store of the Future BY SAN D R A LE V Y

T

he centerpiece of Rite Aid’s new RxEvolution strategy for success is its Store of the Future, in which the retail chain is intent on bringing pharmacists out of their customary place in the back of the store, and prominently placing them front and center. Jocelyn Konrad, Rite Aid’s executive vice president and chief pharmacy officer, said the mission of RxEvolution and the new store format is to unlock the value of its pharmacists to support its customers and communities. “We want to ultimately enable our pharmacists to address mind, body and spirit of each of our customers, so that they don’t only get healthy, they get thriving,” Konrad said. “Most of the time our role is to create health outcomes, or to keep people healthy, or help when they have health conditions. We are taking that one step further and not only keeping people healthy, and not only driving wellness, but actually getting them to thrive and

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be their best selves.” With an eye on helping patients attain this goal, Rite Aid debuted the Store of the Future in three markets, Etters, Pa.; Littleton, N.H.; and Moscow, Pa., where it is taking pharmacy services to new heights. “The Store of the Future highlights the RxEvolution strategy as the whole store is reimagined and remodeled,” she said. “Whether it be the front-end merchandise and, in particular, the way we have reintroduced the pharmacist to our customers in a very different way that has never been done before. Historically, the industry kept that pharmacist back in the production end of the pharmacy and what we have literally done is pulled that pharmacist out to be front and center for our customers, so there’s always a connection every time the customer is in our stores.” The Store of the Future is designed so that pharmacists sit behind the registers, so that they can easily come out to the

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PHARMACY INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR 2020

customers and can bring them over to their consultation area, streamlining the entire experience. A key component of Rite Aid’s new strategy is to continue to have its pharmacists interacting with the traditional care that they have always provided in terms of prescriptions, but also to enhance its pharmacists’ ability to provide alternative and complementary remedies through more meaningful and robust consultations. “We also want to be a connector for patients to the healthcare system. In the Stores of the Future, we have a virtual care room,” Konrad said. “As we identify needs of the customer that go beyond the pharmacist, we can ultimately connect them directly to their own healthcare provider, or another healthcare provider in a network that will support them, and not be fragmented from their normal care.” With just so many hours in a day, Rite Aid realized the need to further enhance its pharmacy workflow efficiency. To get there, the chain is utilizing lean methodology, which focuses on taking waste out of pharmacy production and creating standard workflows. “It is really freeing up time or better utilizing the time of our support staff,” Konrad said. Pharmacists are not spending as much time in the production phase as they did before. “They are still involved in the quality assurance of the final prescription. However, what we’re doing is taking a lot of the waste out, and utilizing our resources more effectively within the pharmacy,” said Konrad. “We’re enhancing the efficiencies to free up the time to utilize that time by our pharmacists for bigger and better things.” Konrad provided the example of using technicians to perform data entry of the prescriptions, and putting the pills in the bottle, and labeling the bottle, and having pharmacists do the final check once the prescription is complete. “What we’re doing is ensuring that we have the properly trained workforce to be able to do those backend activities without the pharmacist and then present it to the pharmacist only.”

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Rite Aid also places the top 100 prescription bottles in every store in close proximity to technicians. “Instead of the technician walking all over the store, they can have the majority of the prescriptions that they fill in proximity,” she said. “Once you take less steps, you are becoming more efficient and you can do more with your time.” Rite Aid’s pay-and-go system, which enables a customer to pay for their prescription on their app is yet another efficiency booster. “This is important, especially with COVID, that when customers walk into the store, we are not wasting time at the register,” she noted. “If the transaction takes three minutes, we can pull those three minutes out of the transaction and then utilize a minute or two of that time to have a more meaningful conversation with customers.” Beyond efficiency improvements, Rite Aid has been concentrating on redesigning stores and changing up its merchandising offerings to reflect the chain’s new emphasis on whole health.

“We’ve provided training to our pharmacists across our whole network that aligns to these whole-healthrelated topics, such as sleep, stress, immunity, and pain management,” said Erik Keptner, Rite Aid’s chief marketing and merchandising officer. “We also made sure that we had the products that represented not only traditional medicine, but also alternative medicine so the pharmacist can make a recommendation that spans that continuum between traditional medicine and whole health.” Rite Aid has enhanced its beauty offerings too, adding clean and holistic skin care. It also is introducing beauty ambassadors at select stores — beauty experts who provide guidance and recommendations on beauty products and regimens that are trending. Rite Aid also is adding a discovery area within beauty. “It’s more experiential and it revolves around beauty that goes from the inside out,” Keptner said. “What you put in your body, such as supplements, plays a large role in making you feel better.

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PHARMACY INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR 2020

When you feel better you look better.” As far as the look of the store, the lighting in the middle of the stores has been reduced. “This allows for full visibility across the stores so they are easy to navigate,” Keptner said. “There also is unique fixturing that highlights an increased level of assortment around key ingredients customers are looking for, including paraben and cruelty free, vegan, organic and non-GMO. Our merchandising philosophy has embraced the fact that customers buy on attributes rather than on brand today.” Further change is taking place in the consumables category, where Rite Aid is showcasing more healthy snacking and healthy beverage options. As Rite Aid adds more products that are related to whole health, such as CBD, other categories will be eliminated or narrowed, including its assortment of electronics, stationery, apparel and some household items, such as plungers, motor oils and WD-40. While Rite Aid will to continue to provide the utmost in service to its senior customers, who are heavy users of pharmacy, Keptner said it is targeting 25- to 49-year-old female shoppers who are drawn to the whole-health category. “They are the future pipeline of growth,” Keptner said, pointing out that the chain is using TV, radio, digital, CRM and targeted direct mail strategies to attract these customers. “We’re using a 360-degree campaign to drive the fact that Rite Aid is changing and we’re on this journey to become a whole-health destination.” So, what does the future hold for a chain that is taking a futuristic approach? Rite Aid is opening Stores of the Future in Boise, Idaho and Virginia Beach, and several additional markets are set to be announced. Konrad summed up the future best with these words: “Our tag line, ‘We’re not just going to help you get healthy, but thriving,’ is what the profession needs and deserves. It’s an exciting time to be a pharmacist, and an exceptional time to be a pharmacist at Rite Aid.”

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Immunizations in Focus

Between flu season and the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine, Rite Aid is arming its pharmacists with more than just syringes BY SA NDR A L E V Y

O

ffering consumers a safe, convenient and reliable place for immunizations are playing a big role in Rite Aid’s overall pharmacy strategy. In fact, more than 6,300 Rite Aid pharmacists, as well as some pharmacy technicians, across the chain’s 2,460 stores have been trained and certified as vaccinators — a number that may come in very handy as the federal government considers using retail pharmacies as distribution centers for upcoming COVID-19 vaccines in coming weeks. When it happens, Rite Aid will be prepared to help, relying on more than a decade of experience with in-store vaccinations. “Immunizations have been an important part of our pharmacy strategy,” said Jocelyn Konrad, Rite Aid’s executive vice president and chief pharmacy officer. “Elevating the role of our pharmacists and vaccines are one of the first things we were able to do as a profession inside a retail pharmacy that actually connected us on a higher level outside of filling a commodity, or prescription.” Rite Aid embarked on its vaccination program in 2009, just as individual states were starting to authorize pharmacists as vaccinators. “Once we got to a really good place in 2012-2013, we said, ‘If you are going to work for Rite Aid this is important to us and we feel it’s important to the communities we serve. You will be required

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PHARMACY INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR 2020

to be certified to immunize to work in our stores,’” Konrad added. To that end, training and education have been vital. All pharmacists initially take the American Pharmacists Association’s immunization training program. They also are required to complete several in-house modules every year to ensure that they are up to date on immunizations. With the confluence of the flu and the novel coronavirus, Rite Aid is pulling out all the stops to impress upon customers the importance of getting vaccinated against the flu this year. “We have a whole marketing strategy to ensure that our customers understand, especially as COVID and flu potentially would be colliding at this point in time,” Konrad noted. “We wanted them to know that it’s more important this year than ever that they get their flu shot to protect them from the flu, as we all try to navigate through COVID.” Educating wary consumers about vaccines is also a big part of the initiative, when needed. “One of the biggest misconceptions we always hear is that flu shots can give you the flu, or the belief that the flu vaccine can increase your risk of getting it,” Konrad said. “We utilize our specially trained pharmacists who are trusted advisors. They are our best asset in our stores to reassure our customers, and to bust the myths with clinical data and information that consumers can understand, to assure them that some of those myths are not true.” Conversations about the risks versus the benefits of getting the flu shot is yet another conversation that Rite Aid pharmacists are engaging in with reluctant patients, Konrad explained. “Patients may say, ‘How effective is the flu vaccine?’ ‘Should I get the vaccine? I never get the flu so I don’t need it,’ or ‘I’m not going to get sick,’ or ‘It’s not going to knock me down, I’m strong and healthy,’” she said. “We explain that the flu vaccine is not only for you. Similar to COVID, it’s for protecting people around you who might be more vulnerable. You may even get the flu and have mild symptoms, but potentially put others at risk as well.” Beyond dispelling vaccine myths through conversations, the chain also is

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utilizing technology to encourage patients to get inoculated. For example, Rite Care, which is embedded in the workflow of the chain’s pharmacy dispensing system, prompts pharmacists for any opportunities based on data to recommend flu, as well as other vaccines, and clinical services for customers when they visit Rite Aid stores. “Because it’s a proprietary system we have the ability to prompt whatever we feel is appropriate for that customer to thrive and live their best lives, as well as to recommend some alternative remedies, if it’s appropriate,” Konrad said.

Immunizations have been an important part of our pharmacy strategy. Jocelyn Konrad, Rite Aid chief pharmacy officer

Rite Aid also has instituted the My Immunization History portal, which automatically records immunizations that patients have received at their Rite Aid pharmacy. “That helps us support providing the best recommendations to our customers,” Konrad said. “We do our best to pull that in or ask those questions, and we keep that log inside of our system, so we’re not asking them about their vaccine history multiple times. This is especially helpful to seniors. If two different pharmacists ask them what vaccines they received, they may get confused. We have all that data to make sure we’re making the best recommendation at that time.”

As Rite Aid forges ahead with its mission of creating a combination offering of traditional and alternative remedies, flu season is an opportune time for its pharmacists to help patients focus on and improve their overall health. In addition to encouraging patients to get a flu shot and stock up on OTC products — as well as wearing a mask and washing their hands — Rite Aid is showcasing alternative remedies meant to boost the immune system. “Our pharmacists are having conversations around the flu shot and providing the flu shot, but they also are having conversations with our customers and encouraging them to support their immunity in other ways with OTC remedies.” While Rite Aid always has incorporated strict safety protocols for vaccinations, as well as any store visit, the emergence of COVID-19 has necessitated extra measures. Now, Rite Aid ensures that pharmacists have the proper PPE while they are administering vaccines. Additionally, customers are required to wear a mask or face covering when they receive an immunization. Patients and associates have their temperatures taken, and in addition to enhanced cleaning measures in the stores, employees disinfect the area before and after each immunization. As a number of COVID-19 vaccines await Food and Drug Administration emergency approval and distribution, Konrad said she is confident that the chain’s pharmacists are well positioned and well prepared to undertake the Herculean task of helping to manage mass administration of the vaccine when it is available. “We’re building that whole plan as we speak and we are looking at a scheduling tool being one of the components,” she said. “We are looking to see how best we can service our customers based on the availability of the vaccine, as well as the consumers’ engagement on getting vaccinated. It’s happening faster than I would have expected, but we’re preparing for that because we know that we will play a critical role in supporting the masses and getting them vaccinated, similar to what we’ve done with COVID-19 testing.” dsn

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Retail Healthcare Growth Spotlight: Millennial Shoppers In just one-year, millennial shoppers’ interest in retailer services has grown substantially:

Share of Millennial Shoppers Very Interested in Using Service: 2019 vs. 2020 12.0 10.0

9.4 6.9

Dental exams

Eye exam

Exercise classes

Nutritionist to answer foodrelated questions

5.8

5.7

Immunizations

In-store medical clinic for adults

Kantar’s retail and shopper experts can help you capitalize on this growth opportunity. Visit retailiq.kantar.com to learn more about enterprise access to retail forecasts, shopper trends, and topical insights.

To connect with us directly, please email switchon@kantar.com

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HEALTH | LICE SOLUTIONS

Not Putting Our Heads Together Lice treatment products are still selling, even during social distancing By Nora Caley

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he parasites live on. That’s not the title of a streaming horror movie, but an explanation for why lice products are still in demand, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing, essential for reducing the spread of the coronavirus, also can prevent lice infestations. Less hugging and leaning closer together to take selfies resulted in fewer infestations, but there is still a need for products that eliminate lice and prevent other people in the household from getting these insects. “If we’ve learned anything about lice, it is that they are resilient,” said Joseph Juliano, vice president of marketing at Tarrytown,

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N.Y.-based Prestige Consumer Healthcare, which makes Nix Lice Removal Products. “Just as lice have begun to adapt to traditional pesticides, they will survive the pandemic.” Lice, which cannot jump or fly, crawl from head to head, and the closure of schools and summer camps slowed the spread. There still were lice infestations, and that drove consumers to shift some of these purchases online, but that will change. “We expect incidence to rise with the reopening of in-person schools and other programs for children in 2021,” Juliano said. “Consumers will seek treatments where they’ve shopped in the past.” That means a return to brick-and-mortar retailers, as consumers seeking same-day solutions rush to stores.

Sales figures indicate the pandemic slowed, but did not stop, purchases of lice treatments, shampoos, combs and other products. According to Chicago-based IRI, for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 1, U.S. multi-outlet sales of parasite treatments totaled more than $124.8 million, down 16.7%. There were more than 9.3 million units sold, which, although is a decrease of 16.4%, indicated there was still a need for products. Much of those sales occurred early in the COVID-19 crisis. “At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a boom,” said Jay Smith, president of MacGill School Nurse Supplies, based in the Chicago suburb of Lombard, Ill. “Instead of the nurse sending a

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HEALTH | LICE SOLUTIONS

kid home, kids came home with undiagnosed lice, and everyone in their group of friends would get it. It affected the whole family, so the mom would go to the store and buy for five people.” Once in the store, these consumers often find pesticide-based products designed to kill lice, resistant super lice and nits, or eggs. Other products are gaining popularity. “The trend we’re seeing is a more green, environmentally friendly and holistic approach to the problem,” Smith said. “The pesticide treatment is based on the premise that you want to kill lice, but more important is getting them off your child’s head.” That task involves using a comb with rigid teeth that are close enough to remove lice and nits, or eggs that would otherwise hatch later. MacGill, which has offered lice treatment products and other school nurse supplies for decades, recently began offering its WelComb lice removing comb in its Lice and Nit Removal Kit available at Dollar General stores. The WelComb is a natural, inexpensive, 100% effective solution, Smith said, if the user takes 45 minutes to an hour to (literally) nitpick.

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One challenge is that parents visit the store in a panic and buy a chemical solution, not realizing that pesticide-based products often do not kill the nits. MacGill is working with nurses to tell parents about the Dollar General kit because school nurses are a great source of information. “No one goes on social media and posts, ‘My kid has lice,’” Smith said. “It’s a clandestine purchase.”

In-store Decision Parents do go online when they get a letter from a school nurse or when they see an insect on their child’s head. “The first thing they do is Google,” said Carol Lewis, marketing campaign manager at Vamousse, a brand from Cary, N.C.-based Alliance Pharma. In fact, Lewis said, consumers don’t even want to order lice treatment products online because they don’t want to wait 24 hours for delivery. Instead, they visit retailers and sometimes call the Vamousse customer support line while they are standing in the aisle. “They have questions about it, and are so freaked out and worried,” she said. Education is crucial, so Vamousse, which makes Pesticide-Free Lice Treatment Foaming

Mousse, Pesticide-Free Lice Defense Shampoo and other products, puts information on the packaging, on its website, in ads and other communications. “A lot of decisions are made at the shelf,” said Alethea Taylor, U.S. brand manager at Vamousse. “When they are shopping for products, they will do research at the shelf or in the car. They are reading reviews, so we make sure we are in those channels.” Even though sales of lice treatment products decreased during the pandemic, lice aren’t going away. “We know the category is soft, but over the last few months, the category appears to be picking up,” Taylor said. “There are kids returning to school, and we are seeing numbers come up a little bit.” Also, another pandemic-related trend, a new focus on prevention, will prompt people to buy such products as preventive shampoos and sprays.

School’s Out Except for this year, fall typically sees a sales increase in lice treatment products. “A big factor in the industry are schools, and not necessarily for the transfer of head lice,” said Scott Wilson, president of Murray, Utahbased Larada Sciences, which does business

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as Lice Clinics of America. “Schools are really big for identifying when someone has a case of lice. Some schools have a no nit policy, which has a big impact on business.” Lice Clinics of America has professional salons that treat head lice and eggs with heated air and offers at-home devices and treatment kits, as well as new prevention products including shampoo, conditioner spray and hair bands. The new products answer consumer demands for proactive products. “Everything always seemed to be reactive,” Wilson said. When the pandemic started, the clinics closed temporarily and consumers shifted to at-home methods. Retailers that offered online ordering and curbside pickup had the advantage, Wilson said, because consumers wanted e-commerce and the ability to get the product immediately. Most clinics have since reopened, and consumers have a choice of professional treatment or DIY

options. Many try it at home first, then go to a clinic. “It’s difficult to get right the first time,” Wilson said. “For efficacy, you have to be diligent and comb everything out.” The difficulty is intensified if the child cannot sit still for 45 minutes. “The major problem the parents have is the time it takes to take lice and nits out from the kid’s hair,” said Yoav Gaon, CEO and co-founder of Concept Trade Solutions. The Israeli company designed and manufactures Lice Combot, a self-cleaning lice comb system that removes lice and nits in wet hair, then opens up and empties so the user doesn’t have to touch the bugs. The new product is available online in the United States, and Gaon is talking to retailers. “We had a lot of discussions with big players in the market,” he said. Retailers can merchandise the Lice Combot with hairbrushes, children’s shampoo and other lice products. It also was the finalist last year for the Drug Store News/ECRM Buyers’ Choice Award.

On top of everything else we’ve all had to battle lately, lice are the last thing we want to worry about!

Yoav and Ruthi Gaon began working on the Lice Combot a few years ago because their son, Erez, was born with a rare condition that includes neurological issues, as well as lesions and other skin issues, that made combing through his scalp arduous. The Lice Combot is disability-friendly and designed to be fun for kids, so that they use the comb as a preventive measure. “They are not waiting for the nurse’s note,” Gaon said. “It’s about them taking responsibility for their hygiene.” Other changes will affect the lice category. In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the prescriptionto-OTC switch for Sklice (ivermectin) lotion to treat head lice. In July, Oystershell Consumer Health announced it had come to an agreement with Bayer Healthcare to acquire its RID brand of products for lice treatment, super lice removal and controlling lice in the domestic environment. dsn

Kill super lice and eggs where they hide in one treatment with easy to apply foaming mousse: Pesticide-free Vamousse Lice Treatment is clinically proven to kill both lice and eggs – even super lice – with 1 treatment.1

But they’re still hiding on kids’ heads and spreading in families.

A mousse for easy application, its active ingredient, natrum muriaticum, dehydrates lice and eggs on contact. No second application required in 7 days.

If one child has lice, the whole family has been exposed. Recommend for daily use: Pesticide-free Vamousse Lice Defense Daily Shampoo kills recently contracted super lice2 before detection when used daily for 10-14 days following exposure or treatment.

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Vamousse Lice Repellent Leave-in Spray repels super lice from hair throughout the school day.

From

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What’s in Store? Having never slowed down innovation and made strides in DIY categories, can beauty use momentum to rebound in 2021? By Seth Mendelson

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ill 2020 go down as a complete lost cause for the mass-market beauty business or a year that opened up new opportunities for some retailers and suppliers? Of course, time will tell, though as a battered industry enters the last few weeks of this chaotic year, many of the category’s biggest players most likely are simply licking their wounds, figuring out what happened, working out how to survive and deciding what’s next. This may change, many industry officials said, as the much hoped for COVID-19 vaccines make their way to the public and consumers try to rebuild their lives back to some semblance of normalcy. “When things return to normal, people are going to rush to return to the things that made them feel better,” said one retailer at a major chain. “That will most definitely include the beauty category. So, I think we have to be prepared to offer them what they want, including some new items to get them excited.” Mass retailers also could be perfectly situated for the much anticipated return to normalcy. Some of their main competitors, namely department stores and some specialty stores, are struggling or have simply gone out of business. Plus, some consumers have changed their way of shopping, looking for more value in the beauty department and choosing mass brands over luxury names and luxury prices. “We definitely will have an

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opportunity to build sales because consumers want or need better pricing,” the retailer said. Many suppliers and industry officials said they sense the same thing. “Drug stores and other essential retailers are in a strong position to continue to drive beauty and skin care growth, and are partnering with brands to elevate the consumer experience with a focus on improving the in-aisle beauty experience,” said Elizabeth Corrigan, founder and CEO of The Complete Package and Prestige Testing,

based in Randolph, N.J. “Brand programs with drug stores that enhance store experiences may finally entice luxury brands to get comfortable with store shelves versus beauty counters. The pandemic has accelerated this shift. Brands need to be where customers are.” Mass retailers overhauled beauty departments as a strategy to woo shoppers back from competitors or online retailers. Enhancing the experience is critical, said Brian Owens, senior vice president of global

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CHOOSE SOFTNESS SOFTER SKIN. SOFTER WORLD.

W E D O N AT E $ 1 OF EVERY PURCHASE TO *

KINDNESS.ORG

*Beiersdorf, Inc., will donate $1 to kindness.org for each NIVEA® product purchased from October 1 to December 31, 2020, up to $200,000. Visit www.NIVEAusa.com/choosesoft for more details. No part of your purchase is tax deductible.

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health and wellness retail insights at New York-based Kantar Consulting. “Physical stores still provide the tactile interaction and immediacy that best suit beauty discovery and impulse shopping,” he said during a recent DSN webinar. Perhaps, nothing showed the potential power of mass retailers in the beauty area in coming years than the announcement in early November that Ulta Beauty and Target had reached a deal to open over 100 beauty sections at the retail chain, with the possibility of hundreds more coming down the pike over the next few years. Target officials, including chairman and CEO Brian Cornell, expressed their excitement, hoping that the combination of Ulta Beauty and Target will result in more consumers coming through the doors for beauty items. “This matchup brings Ulta Beauty’s coveted prestige beauty assortment, category expertise and guest loyalty together with Target’s high-powered beauty business and the ease and convenience of our industry-leading fulfillment services,” Cornell said in a press release. “This is a win-win, pairing a leader in beauty curation with a leader in mass marketing,” according to Stephanie Wissink, equities analyst at New York-based Jeffries. Other industry officials stressed that it is going to come down to who attracts the most shoppers, and mass retailers have a clear advantage. Drug store chains are becoming extremely active, as well, hoping that consumers will decide to visit their stores. For example, Camp Hill, Pa.-based Rite Aid is rolling out

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its rebranding effort called RxEvolution. Its store of the future prototype has a wellness area with brands handpicked for natural positioning. New beauty offerings include Ella + Mila, Seaweed Bath, Fleur & Bee, Essano and Kokie among others. Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens also is kicking up its game. The chain recently launched a new loyalty program called myWalgreens, which will include beauty tips and tricks. The category is also part of a new shop program that allows people to order online or from a redesigned app for curbside or drive-thru delivery in under 30 minutes. Not to be outdone, Woonsocket, R.I.based CVS Health continues to build upon its Beauty IRL format with a commitment to products with “better for you” formulations. Its stores soon will feature a tool called SkinSafe, developed by the Mayo Clinic, that will allow shoppers to search and get information on product ingredients. The year also saw the retirement of industry veteran Jody Pinson, who helped shape Walmart’s beauty department. Stepping in at the Bentonville, Ark.-based powerhouse is Musab Balbale, who is expected to broaden the retailer’s natural product scope and enrich its omnichannel capabilities. Balbale, whose title is vice president of omnichannel beauty, was formerly vice president of GM, health, beauty, wellness and pharmacy for Walmart e-commerce. Kohl’s is looking to contend in the wellness space that mass beauty retailers are cultivating. The Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based merchant

plans to triple its beauty sales with a new Wellness Market concept as a cornerstone of the effort. “Our customers want beauty. We have a real opportunity to introduce new elevated brands to our customers,” said Michelle Gass, CEO and director of Kohl’s.

Brands Step it Up Despite the challenges of COVID-19, beauty lines achieved many milestones. There was growth, especially in products that helped people cope with sheltering at home, including DIY nail care, hair color and derm-quality skin care. L’Oréal saw sales soar of its professional quality CeraVe brand, in part due to its viral popularity on TikTok, the company told DSN. The cosmetics giant said social media helped make CeraVe the No. 1 skin care brand in the United States over the past year. The company also benefited from its decade-long attempt to shore up its digital efforts. In the first months of the pandemic, L’Oréal USA saw a 100% increase in ecommerce traffic across its North American business. The e-commerce growth was faster in America than anywhere else in the beauty giant’s global business, the company said. L’Oréal USA began 2020 with a new leader at the helm: Stephane Rinderknech. He helped craft the company’s game plan as the year took an unexpected path that has helped return business to growth in North America. “We are proud of our ability to adapt to the unexpected,” L’Oréal said in a statement. L’Oréal USA, for example, pivoted its

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PURPOSE-DRIVEN BRANDS

business to respond to the crisis and, in March, announced a multifaceted initiative that included producing hand sanitizer, providing masks to front-line workers and making donations to charities in need. The nail care category was one of the strongest performers across the massmarket landscape. “The pandemic changed consumer shopping and purchasing behavior across the board. DIY beauty products, such as artificial nails and lashes performed well as salons closed down for months and close personal interactions [with technicians] were greatly reduced due to personal safety and health concerns,” said Annette DeVita-Goldstein, senior vice president of global marketing at Port Washington, N.Y.-based Kiss Products. “All of our fashion nails sold very well and continue to sell well. Professional nail kits were also strong as women looked to replicate their salon service at home.” Kiss was well prepared for the additional demand, she said, because the company recently built a second nail factory in Vietnam that helped support a new distribution center in New Jersey. “We anticipate that the trend for DIY and self-care will continue in the future as the rewards of doing so go beyond ‘safety’ as more and more women have now personally experienced the ease, convenience and quality of the at-home nail and lash experience,” DeVita-Goldstein said. Consumers also focused on ways to grow their eyelashes at home, especially consumers

who couldn’t get to salons for extensions. To that end, OKAY Pure Naturals put a push behind its Eyelash Growth. The Miami-based company has natural solutions using golden castor oil and black Jamaican oil. Osman Mithavayani, the company’s co-founder, also noted an uptick in natural at-home hair color, such as the brand’s Herbal Henna. Beauty By Imagination reported a huge sales spike in Ouchless Forever Elastics for an unusual reason. The company said that during the early days of the pandemic, when masks were hard to find, people used the elastics to make their own out of scarves and bandanas. Healthcare professionals also used them to cushion the straps on their masks during long shifts, according to the company.

Product Launches Many brands did not put innovation on the backburner, even during the pandemic. L’Oréal expanded its commitment to beauty tech with the introduction of a first of its kind AI-powered at-home system that creates personalized formulas for skin care and cosmetics. L’Oréal’s Maybelline division had a hit with Lifter Gloss, which the company said captured a young demographic. Danbury, Conn.-based Beiersdorf also featured several products as its key performers this year. Under its Nivea brand, the company released a Breathable Body Lotion and Body Wash with Nourishing Serum. The company said it is the first to market with a new technology oil and emulsifier, resulting in faster absorption.

Beiersdorf’s Eucerin expanded its range of products to treat eczema with its new Eczema Relief Cream Body Wash. Also new was its Itch Relief Intensive Calming Lotion. The company said these products saw an uptick as people noticed skin was drying out from use of sanitizing products. Consumers became more focused on ingredients and self-care during the year, a movement that benefitted Durham, N.C.based Burt’s Bees. “In 2020, we’ve seen our shopper become more focused on self-care. She understands that her daily skin care ritual is intrinsically connected to her overall wellness and seeks out mindful moments of caring for her skin through cleansing and moisturizing,” said Denise Wellender, senior director of sales at the Clorox-owned brand. “Accessible, trusted and effective, Burt’s Bees products offer her a clean, dermatologist-approved regimen to meet this need, backed by the proven power of nature.” E.l.f., based in San Francisco, has not minimized its launches, either. The brand continued to enjoy added sales from exposure on TikTok. The company announced an eye-opening launch of a lifestyle brand called Keys Soulcare from singer Alicia Keys. Retailers said they hope it will be a mass market answer to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.

New Distribution It was a big year for Popbeauty and Pixi, which gained major mass distribution. The British Popbeauty brand introduced its vegan skin care and color line at CVS Pharmacy. Sister division Pixi is now in CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens and Ulta Beauty. A company spokesperson singled out Clarity Skintreats, which launched in June 2020 as one of the best performers for the brand. Other brands gaining footage in mass doors included Kokie, Flower by Drew Barrymore and Mele skin care. It also was a big year for women in beauty, including Sue Nabi, who took over as CEO at New York-based Coty. Already she appears to be bringing much needed life to the brand. Coty’s results exceeded its own expectations, Nabi said. Now she is seeking to turn around the CoverGirl brand that has been losing shelf space at retail over the last few years. dsn

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LAST WORD

How to Be Ready for Anything in 2021 Forget about predicting the future; focus instead on essential strategies By David Orgel

I David Orgel is an awardwinning business journalist, industry expert and speaker. He is currently the principal of David Orgel Consulting, delivering strategic content and counsel to the food, retail and CPG industries.

t’s that time of year again. Columnists and other pundits are making forecasts for the year ahead. Yet, there was a problem with all those forecasts for 2020. No one anticipated the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. At this stage the future is harder to predict, in light of so many uncertainties (and I’m not even talking about politics). That’s why this time around, I’m taking a somewhat different — and arguably more useful — approach. Rather than making specific forecasts, I will identify strategies and imperatives that are sure to support food and drug retail success no matter how events play out. With that explanation, here are five directions that will help retailers be prepared for just about anything.

1. Don’t Skimp On Investments Adaptability is crucial, but it helps if you make smart investments ahead of time. That’s one of the lessons from 2020 that needs to drive retailer strategies going forward. I’ve written about the case of Kroger, whose prepandemic investments in e-commerce and related digital strategies led to readiness and success during the pandemic. It’s not always easy to justify investments, but retailers need to assess the risk of not taking action — in critical areas like supply chain, technology and in-store experience.

2. Step Up Consumer Insights How do you keep up with consumer needs in fast-changing times? By really understanding what is driving their decisions. There are more ways than ever to do this, from traditional survey methods to leveraging input from employee affinity groups. And in a year like 2020, when change often happens faster than research can keep up, it’s important to experiment by turning insights into action quickly. That’s what led, for example, to creative approaches to help consumers develop new home-based cooking and meal preparation ideas for the pandemic period.

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3. Keep Employees Engaged If a retailer failed to understand the full value of front-line associates before the pandemic, that lack of insight was quickly reversed when the crisis erupted. Employees became the true heroes of 2020, but it’s not just front-line workers who need to be valued and engaged. Retailers need to focus on engagement and training for associates across their enterprises. That approach, along with stepped up internal communications, will keep retailers robust in a crisis and continuously improving no matter what the environment.

4. Let Data Be Your Guide Retailers planning for the future don’t need to rely on hunches. The growing availability of all kinds of data brings unique opportunities to make progress. “The [COVID-19] crisis is driving home that retail success, even in a pandemic, is dependent on the understanding and use of data,” according to the white paper called It’s Time For A COVID-19 Technology Checkup, from Gary Hawkins, founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology and FMI – the Food Industry Association. Data will bring indispensable information about operations, supply chain and other factors.

5. Get Innovative About Partnerships Early in the pandemic, I wrote a column that summed up my thoughts about the importance of solidifying partnerships, and I stand by this perspective just as much today. Here’s what I wrote: “Success in navigating a crisis relies on being closely in touch with suppliers, government and a wide range of industry partners. This is not a time to be worried about over communicating.” Further solidifying these partnerships is an essential goal for the new year. I would be pleased if 2021 is a relatively boring year. We don’t need another extended period of unprecedented challenges. The only prediction I can make for certain is that retailers would do well to be prepared for a range of eventualities. dsn

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Keeping people healthy shouldn’t make the planet sick. Making affordable medicines for good health shouldn’t harm the environment. At Dr. Reddy’s, our commitment to the planet lies at the heart of all that we do. We manage our manufacturing and business activities within a sustainable framework: from zero liquid discharge and zero hazardous waste to landfill initiatives, to reducing packaging, green chemistry, and process innovation. Minimizing the environmental impact of our business operations is our top priority because Good Health Can’t Wait.

www.drreddys.com Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Inc. | 107 College Road East, Princeton, NJ 08540 | Tel: 866-733-3952

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