Rite Aid is clinging to its position as a distant third (behind Walgreen and CVS) in the US retail drugstore business. The struggling company runs more than 4,600 drugstores in some 30 states and the District of Columbia. Rite Aid stores fill prescriptions (more than two-thirds of sales) and sell health and beauty aids, convenience foods, greeting cards, and more, including some 3,000 Rite Aid brand private-label products. About 60% of all Rite Aid stores are freestanding and more than half have drive-through pharmacies. Rite Aid acquired more than 1,850 Brooks and Eckerd drugstores from Canada's Jean Coutu Group for about $4 billion, which saddled the company with plenty of debt and some redundant stores.
Rite Aid operates stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia. Its largest markets are New York, California, and Pennsylvania, home to more than a third of its drugstores.
In addition to its retail pharmacy chain, Rite Aid operates nearly 2,200 GNC stores-within-Rite Aid-stores that sell vitamins and mineral supplements through a partnership with General Nutrition Companies, Inc. Rite Aid, which considers the in-store GNC departments to be a differentiator between it and its larger rivals, plans to open an additional 500 GNC in-store departments by the end of 2014. To this end, the pair expanded and extended their partnership through 2019. Within the next five years, Rite Aid has plans to add another 300 GNC LiveWell stores-within-stores. The chain also offers healthcare services, including flu shots, other immunizations, and diabetes management consultants, at its drugstores.
Rite Aid's sales fell nearly 3% in fiscal 2013 (ended February) versus the prior year to $25.4 billion. The company attributed the decline to falling same-store sales -- due to recent generic introductions and continued reimbursement rate pressures -- and fewer stores in operation. Still, the company continued to see a positive impact on sales from its wellness and loyalty programs, flu immunizations, and other initiatives aimed at driving sales.
The big news on the financial front in fiscal 2013 was that Rite Aid was profitable for the first time since acquiring the Brooks and Eckerd stores back in 2007. Indeed, net income swung from a steep loss in fiscal 2012 to $118 million in 2013. The return to profitability came after years of closing redundant and underperforming stores and layoffs. The years of sustained losses left Rite Aid short on cash to make improvements to stores or to move them to better locations. Now that the company has returned to profitability, it should be in a better position to compete with rivals Walgreen and CVS after falling far behind them. Net cash from operating activities increased to about $820 million in fiscal 2013 versus just $266.5 million the prior year.
Rite Aid's heavy debt load, years in the red, the recession, and tight credit markets left the company in a vulnerable position and even led to speculation about its survival. In an effort to right its ship, Rite Aid closed about 400 underperforming stores over the past five years, reduced inventory and costs, and cut its budget for capital expenditures. It also brought in a new CEO, John Standley, who had previously left Rite Aid to become CEO of Pathmark Stores. He succeeded Mary Sammons in June 2010 and was named chairman in June 2012. Standley faces the difficult task of turning the business around and proving that the Brooks and Eckerd purchase was not a colossal mistake. To that end, Rite Aid is remodeling hundreds of stores and stepping up marketing efforts to lure shoppers with its Wellness loyalty card and pushing flu shots during the second half of the year. The loyalty card program (launched in 2010) is the first national marketing campaign that Rite Aid has undertaken in some 10 years.
Jean Coutu, which received a 32% stake in Rite Aid in the Brooks/Eckerd deal, currently controls about 12% of the total Rite Aid voting power.