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Clout of Barra, Foulkes recognized

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From left: Ornella Barra, president and chief executive officer of global wholesale and international retail at Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Helena Foulkes, president of CVS/pharmacy and executive vice president at CVS Health.

NEW YORK — Chain drug executives Helena Foulkes and Ornella Barra are among the “Most Powerful Women” in business listed by Fortune magazine.

Foulkes, president of CVS/pharmacy, was ranked 14th on the list of 51 women in the U.S. Barra, president and chief executive officer of global wholesale and international retail at Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), ranked fifth on the list of 25 women in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Other retail executives making the U.S. list include Rosalind Brewer, president and CEO of Sam’s Club (15th); Judith McKenna, chief operating officer of Walmart U.S. (30th); and Michelle Gloeckler, executive vice president of consumables, health and wellness, and U.S. manufacturing lead at Walmart U.S. (38th).

Foulkes, a 20-year CVS veteran who was named head of the company’s retail division in January 2014, was featured by Fortune in a full-length story titled, “She thanks you for not smoking.” The 51-year-old Foulkes, who is also executive vice president of CVS Health, “has long been a rising star” and “the architect of customer engagement programs” that have been key to the company’s growth, the article says.

The story also credits her with a prominent role in CVS’ drive to boost medication adherence. “There was an opportunity for us to shift our model from just filling prescriptions as efficiently and productively as possible to providing services in the store that actually keep people on the medicines,” she told ­Fortune.

Foulkes has most recently been associated with the chain’s front-end overhaul. At the outset of summer CVS unveiled an upgraded front-end format with a focus on health, beauty and ­consumables. The enhancement, being rolled out at selected units starting with 150 high-volume urban outlets, is “the next step in the company’s evolution to better support customers’ health in its retail stores” following its cigarette ban, CVS said.

The strategy was outlined during a Manhattan store tour led by top executives, including Foulkes. They said the initiative reflects learnings from the ExtraCare loyalty program and the chain’s personalization efforts.

New offerings include more healthy food items, a broadened selection of nonprescription products, and an elevated beauty experience with more premium products and displays giving the department a specialty look and feel.

Barra, 61, who moved up three places on the Fortune list from last year, is also executive vice president of WBA. She has helped energize the company’s expanding retailing empire — which, in addition to drug chains in the U.S. and the U.K., includes stores in Mexico, Chile, Thailand, China, Norway, Ireland, the Netherlands and Lithuania.

“It’s very important for us to adapt our strategy to each market,” said Barra, whose responsibilities also include drug distribution — the backbone of the company that she and CEO Stefano Pessina have been instrumental in building from the ground up; brand development; and communications and corporate social responsibility.

Barra, who began her career as an independent pharmacist in her native Italy, is also the driving force behind the Alphega Pharmacy Network, a group of independent drug stores that receive support from WBA in such areas as merchandising, marketing and pharmacy design. Established under her leadership in 2001, Alphega comprises over 6,000 members in eight European countries.

Efforts are under way to put the distribution expertise of WBA’s Alliance Healthcare to work for Alphega members by creating a vertical integration model, similar to the one WBA has successfully implemented in the U.K., Norway and the Netherlands. At its pharmacies in those nations the company has been able to reduce costs and raise margins, while boosting the frequency of store ­deliveries.

Barra indicated that parts of the model, which was a major factor in the Boots drug chain’s ability to double its financial results in five years, may also prove beneficial for Walgreens.


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