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5 things: Walgreens' weight problem

The pharmacy retailer has a lot to deal with regarding health care

Walgreens’ top weight: Walgreens Boots Alliance’s health care strategy has been put to bed with flu-like symptoms. The retailer has spent the last few months closing VillageMD clinics in Indiana, Florida, and Illinois in an effort to cut $1 billion in capital expenses this year, and if I had to guess, more shutdowns are on the way. So who is the one with the most weight to lift in the coming months? That would be Mary Langowski, who replaced John Driscoll as president of U.S. health care. Langowski worked at CVS, where she was the executive vice president and chief strategy and corporate development. She helped CVS with its evolution into a health care company and acquisition of Aetna. In her latest role, Langowski was CEO of Solera Health, a value-based care technology startup in Phoenix that has an investment commitment from Walgreens. According to a recent Walgreens press release, Langowski is expected to build on the company’s strength in pharmacy to unlock new areas of profitable growth and bring services to external players. “Unlock new areas of profitable growth” — does that sound like the focus will be on doctor-to-patient care provided by outfits like VillageMD? I’m not so sure, but we will find out as the year plays out. Let’s see a workout or two from Langowski to see how much she can lift.  —Bill Wilson

Take a bite out of inflation: How is your binder game these days? I remember sometimes watching a show which featured super coupon savers and how they would use a binder stuffed with discounts to whittle grocery bills down to mere dollars. It was quite impressive, and those heroes are certainly in demand these days. Grocery prices are taking up the largest chunk of the family budget since 1991, and there does not appear to be any hints of the cost taking a load off anytime soon. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece on how some shoppers are elevating their discounting talents. Coupons are still a staple, and consumers are also putting limits on dining out, buying more in bulk, and purchasing less packaged food. WSJ points out some are simplifying their meals, which means more mac-and-cheese and sloppy joes are being served at the dinner table. Some are gardening and hunting more, and there was one couple that created an entire spreadsheet covering all of the grocery options in their area to come up with the one that saved them the most money. The winner? It was Costco. So fill up those binders, stock up those pantry shelves with bulk items, grow rows of corn and carrots, and shoot down a deer or two and you too can experience grocery prices from four decades ago. —BW

Cat food supply expected to land on its feet: Don’t let the cats know, but there’s a cat food shortage that’s been posing “challenges” for grocers and others in keeping those kitty kibbles stocked on the shelves. According to a story on Yahoo! Finance, the problem is not so much in sourcing the cat food as in finding the cans to put it in. The shortage of wet food for your feline housemate isn’t just impacting regular shoppers — the pain is also being felt at animal shelters, according to the story. The shortage has trickled down to a reduction in the pet food donations at some animal shelters. One animal shelter in Pennsylvania experienced such a decline in canned cat food donations that it had to put out a call on Facebook. That’s prompted some employees to use their own money to purchase the canned cat food online. A spokesman for Weis Markets said that although inventory has been low, suppliers expect more wet food to become available in March and April. —Tim Inklebarger 

Discount dogs at Costco:  If you know one thing about Costco Wholesale, other than the deep discounts its members receive on bulk items, it is probably the fact that the ready-to-eat hot dogs there cost a mere $1.50. The low-price encased meats (we’re not even getting into the argument about whether a hot dog is a sandwich) are available at the front-end concession stand-style restaurant at all Costco locations. The price is notable in that it has remained the same since Costco first opened up shop in 1985. Finance website The Motley Fool did the math so you don’t have to and figured that when accounting for inflation, the hot dogs should run $4.25 today. Motley Fool also notes that Costco sells roughly 150 million hot dogs a year, outpacing all of Major League Baseball’s hot dog sales. —TI

It’s OK, they’re OK: Trader Joe’s workers are just built differently. We have featured some in past 5 things columns. There was one who comforted a distraught shopper by buying her flowers, and there have been several other noble deeds done inside the glass doors. While California was getting bullied with severe weather, a few Trader Joe’s employees did the right thing — again. At a San Jose location high winds blew over a display of potted plants. Just when it looked like all was lost, the store manager offered the broken batch free to anyone who would be able to nurse them back to health. Waste has been in the grocery industry's crosshairs for a while now, and technology like apps are helping retailers alert shoppers to big deals instead of big garbage bags full of expired product. Technology like social media can spread the good word. “That’s awesome,” said a Reddit poster, referring to the Trader Joe’s deed. “Glad they didn’t go to a landfill.” —BW








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