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'Boo-yah' for Rite Aid


In a segment of CNBC's "Mad Money" program, host Jim Cramer proclaimed "Rite Aid is back" when a caller asked for the former hedge fund manager's opinion about the Camp Hill, Pa.-based retail pharmacy chain. "Rite Aid is good. … It is an OK situation. The group is strong," Cramer said.

Cramer's proclamation only confirmed what Drug Store News has been saying for a while now, ever since it became clear that Rite Aid had hit pay dirt with its Wellness+ loyalty card program, growing sales and reversing several years of annual and quarterly losses. In April 2013, the company posted its first profitable fiscal year since 2007.

But it's not just a fluke in the stock markets, where Rite Aid's shares opened at $3.55 Monday morning. The company's fortunes are the result of a dramatic change in its fundamentals, including further growth of the Wellness+ program — and enhancements to the program like Wellness+ for Diabetes and the recently launched Wellness65+ for seniors — and Wellness store remodels.

As company executives like chairman and CEO John Standley and president and COO Ken Martindale have told DSN in interviews, it's all about the employees whom the company prides on customer service, and the customers themselves.

Such people include Wellness Ambassadors, who walk the aisles of Wellness stores with iPads and provide information about OTC products and health and wellness services, as well as venturing out into the community to help sponsor flu clinics and promote the store. The company has said that its Wellness Ambassadors help make a difference in Wellness stores' sales, whose front-end comps exceed those of non-Wellness stores by more than 3%.

As Cramer would put it, "Boo-yah!"

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