How Concerned Is Walgreen's CEO About Christmas?

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Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Walgreen CEO Greg Wasson discusses healthcare and holiday retail spending at Bloomberg's The Year Ahead: 2014 conference at the Art Institute of Chicago. (Source: Bloomberg)

Of walgreens, the u.s.'s largest drugstore chain.

Yesterday, the two founders of kkr were here.

And as you know, they have a very deep and wide window into the american economy by virtue of all of the portfolio companies that kkr owns.

George roberts said "our ceo's are really concerned about christmas here cap are you?

-- about christmas." are you?

You always want to make sure you are ready for the season.

I think that we play in a group -- a unique niche where we are all across demographics in america.

We serve underprivileged communities all the way to higher income communities.

We are seeing somewhat of a bifurcation of those markets that we are in.

We feel good.

We feel confident.

We feel we've got the right products and selections to fit all communities we operate in.

I think what they are referring to, though, is demand.

You may feel that your product selection is appropriate, your inventory levels are appropriate, but you cannot control consumer demand.

No, you cannot.

And historic way, -- and obviously, hopefully, that continues.

We do typically pretty well in a recession environment.

When people trade down, they tend to come to a drugstore.

They look for a more nondiscretionary gift item, such as cards, candy items, toys and so forth.

We feel that we are ready, and if indeed, people are trading down, we think that we win in that environment.

How would you characterize how you feel?

You feel good, beyond ready, you feel --? cautiously optimistic.

We have to be ready for what people are looking for.

But cautiously optimistic.

Are you looking for disproportionate sales?

You have to do what i call swinging the doors.

Get people in the doors.

More promotion than last year?

It will be about the same.

We try to maintain the right balance between how much investment and swinging the doors.

Something happened today and i want to ask you about it as the ceo of a large american corporation.

Harry reid, senate majority leader, is going nuclear in the senate.

Which is to say that the democrats have decided because of the opposition that republicans have put up in the executive and judicial branch nominations that they will change the rules.

You no longer need 60 votes to get one of these nominees approved.

You know -- you only need a simple majority of 51. the democrats have it, so they can move forward.

I know you are not an expert in politics or civics, for that matter, but what does this say to you dax -- what does this say to you?

Will this put at risk working together over immigration reform, tax reform?

I do not know.

I can say that what we are looking for going forward is more collaboration, more partisan governorship so that we do get things done.

As a ceo, we are looking for certainty, confidence that the government will move forward in a productive way.

Does this frighten you?

I don't know.

I want both sides to come together and work together.

How has the bungling of the rollout of obamacare affected your business?

When i look at it from a provider, i would say, health care reform has been happening over the years and is continuing.

We are seeing people coming in looking for affordable access to high-quality health care.

That is exactly our street spot.

-- sweet spot.

Is it helping or hurting your business?

For us as a provider, we look at it as a positive.

We look at it as people looking for more access to convenient care.

The community pharmacies on the front line.

Our pharmacists are probably -- not probably, but the most exceptional health care professional.

It is good for business and we think we can help the country overall.

How has the affordable care act changed incentives for private industries?

Specifically in the case of walgreens, how has it changed the decisions you make?

Incentives drive behavior.

Yes, and i wear two hats.

First, as a large employer -- and as an employer, we recently went out to the marketplace and put our 250,000 lives into a -- into an exchange in the private market place.

We wanted to get into a competitive marketplace and it allows us to offer more options to our employees.

We went from two plants to 25 plans.

It is a good way for us to offer high-quality plans to our employees and lower costs at the same times.

As a provider, again, it is allowing us to step out and extend the services that we offer.

This text has been automatically generated. It may not be 100% accurate.


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