this is one of the weirdest marketing strategies i have ever heard. i wonder if they have a supply chain issue? you think giant might have too many antibiotics on hand that are about to expire or something?
Giant Food to Offer Free Prescription Antibiotics
By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 31, 2008; Page D01
Giant Food stores will give free generic antibiotics to customers with a
prescription for the next three months in what retail experts called an
aggressive move in supermarkets' heated battle for shoppers.
The company said the program, which will begin Friday and last through March
21, covers several popular antibiotics such as amoxicillin, penicillin and
ciprofloxacin. This is the first time that Giant has offered free prescription
drugs and it did not estimate the cost or potential popularity of the program.
"Times are tough," said Robin Michel, executive vice president for
Giant Food, which is based in Landover. "If this is the way that we can
help most people, why not?"
The economic downturn has made it increasingly difficult for many Americans to
afford prescription drugs. An October survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a
nonprofit health policy group, found that 27 percent of people did not fill a
prescription in order to save money, compared with 23 percent just six months
earlier. About 22 percent reported cutting pills or skipping doses, up from 19
The pharmacy business has become increasingly competitive since Wal-Mart began
offering nearly 300 generic prescription drugs for just $4 in 2006. Its rivals
were forced to follow suit, with Giant lowering 90-day supplies of popular drugs
to $9.99 this summer. According to consulting firm Willard Bishop, pharmacy
sales typically make up about 10 percent of revenue at grocery stores.
"Pharmacy tends to be much more of an additional service that kind of can
position the grocery store as more of a one-stop shop," said Jim Hertel,
managing partner of Willard Bishop. "It's more of a convenience."
The free prescription drug program also will be offered at Giant's sister
chain, Stop & Shop. The medications can be used to treat bacterial illnesses
such as ear and sinus infections but not common viral illnesses such as the flu
and the cold. Most of those medications, such as Tamiflu, are not available in
generic form and are more expensive.
Still, several experts said Giant's announcement yesterday was the first
time they had heard of a retailer literally giving away prescription drugs.
"I think it's a gutsy move," said Ron Paul, president of food
consulting firm Technomic. "Free is the best price anybody can ask
Giant is the largest supermarket chain in the Washington region with 182 stores
and more than 160 in-store pharmacies. But it has struggled to recapture market
share in recent years after a rocky relationship with Dutch parent company Royal
Ahold and the encroachment of competitors such as Wal-Mart and Whole Foods.
According to trade publication Food World, Giant's market share in the
Washington region dipped two percentage points to 35 percent in the year ending
March 31. Sales totaled $3.3 billion, down from $3.4 billion at 133 stores last
year. Safeway ranked second with $2.6 billion in local annual sales, and its
market share inched up from 27.7 percent to 27.8 percent.
To revitalize its stores, Giant has spent millions of dollars to remodel its
aging locations and unveiled a new logo in August. It also has cut prices across
much of the store, from produce to paper products. There are some indicators
that those efforts may be paying off: Giant posted its first positive sales
figures in six years during its third quarter.
Paul said that the free prescription drug program is likely to breed additional
goodwill among its shoppers, particularly at a time when many corporations are
filing for bankruptcy and seeking government bailouts.
"Anything you can do to suggest that we do care about more than just,
quote, making money is probably good citizenship," he said.