When Sam's Club (NYSE:WMT) changed its policy and said on Thursday (Aug. 15) that it will be offering flu shots year-round, it cleverly tied the move to helping small businesses and leveraged the fact that, unlike competitors like Costco, Sam's Club pharmacies are accessible to non-members.
In short, the year-round flu shots get non-members into the pharmacies, where they have to walk by all of the enticing low-cost products only available to members. And they get to do all of this, under the very legitimate cloak of boosting public health.
The official Sam's Club rationale is twofold: the changing nature of flu, and the impact on small businesses. A news release quote attributed to Jill Turner-Mitchael, the chain's SVP for health/wellness (who also happens to be a licensed pharmacist), hits both: "With the onset of flu season and weather patterns becoming increasingly unpredictable, it's every business's job to plan ahead this year. At Sam's Club, we're providing easier access to flu shots and immunizations this year so our customers who plan ahead can protect themselves, their colleagues and their bottom line. Preventive action is critical to maintaining business continuity and growth."
The statement added in some stats. "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year's flu season began four weeks earlier than expected, resulting in the earliest flu season in a decade. The early onset and prolonged infection period had a disproportionate impact on America's small businesses, which rely on fewer employees to maintain profits and productivity, especially from the holidays through tax season," the Sam's Club message said. "The CDC estimates that each year the flu results in 75 million days of work absences and 200 million days of diminished productivity for businesses nationwide. Cumulatively, the flu costs U.S. businesses an estimated $6.2 billion in lost productivity each year."
Beyond flu shots, Sam's Club is also offering shots for Pneumonia (pneumococcal), Whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus, diphtheria (Tdap/Td), Shingles (herpes zoster), Chickenpox (varicella), HPV (human papillomavirus), MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), Meningitis (meningococcal), Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
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