Publix pulls plug on five-year run of in-store Little Clinics

Publix Super Markets has pulled the plug on its in-store miniclinic network where shoppers could get flu shots and minor ailments treated for less than a visit to a doctor's office.

The decision ends a five-year run for all 40 Little Clinics staffed by nurse practitioners in Publix stores. Last week 10 of the 12 locations in the Tampa Bay area closed, while the last day for the remaining two in Tampa and Land O'Lakes have not been set.

Solera Capital, a New York private investment fund that last year sold the rest of its Little Clinic network in other states to Kroger, said it is exploring its next step for Florida. Publix decided to terminate the leases to "focus on its core food and pharmacy" businesses.

"We have not decided how to use the space," said Publix spokeswoman Shannon Patten.

"We appreciate the hard work of employees to make these operations a success," Solera said in a statement. "We see great opportunity in consumer-focused health care in and beyond retail clinics."

While less expensive options to the traditional family doctor's office continue to proliferate, miniclinics keep spreading in drugstore chains like Walgreens and CVS. But they have been a mixed bag in supermarket and discount stores.

Little Clinic patients can get copies of their medical records at medicalrecords@thelittleclinic.com or by calling toll-free 1-877-852-2677.

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The Cost of Dropouts: The Alliance for Excellent Education took its sobering message about failing American schools directly to 40 top retail executives last week at the Global Retail Marketing Association forum in St. Pete Beach.

They urged retailers to get directly involved in overhauling education one school at a time.

"Schools today prepare only 40 percent of our students well enough to enter the work force," said alliance president and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise. "We can't keep doing business this way."

Many are graduates whom employers still must train. But the 39 percent who drop out of Tampa Bay area high schools face a more uncertain future.

Nationally, dropouts and the economy will lose out on $7.6 billion in annual lost earnings by the middle of the dropouts' work careers, the alliance estimates.

In the Tampa Bay area, if half of the 13,800 students who dropped out of the Class of 2010 finished school, they would earn $81 million more as a group annually by the middle of their lifetimes. Their $60 million in added annual spending would support jobs of 750 more, the Alliance for Excellent Education says.

Meantime, the teaching profession may not like a forecast from one expert: By 2019 half of all classroom learning will be done online.

"It's already happening with about 4 million students today," said Michael Horn, co-author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change How the World Learns. "That's not distance learning, either. It's supervised in the classroom."

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GOODWILL = RECYCLING: Have you spotted the "Sustain Our Planet" hang tags on Levi's pants? They suggest washing jeans in cold water, air-drying them and "taking them to Goodwill" for recycling.

They're part of a PR campaign launched by Goodwill International —- best known for thrift shops that support jobs and training for the disadvantaged — to be more associated with "green" behavior. The nonprofit employs 98,000 and did $4 billion in revenue in 2010. The effort includes promotions with Hanes, the underwearmaker, for a back-to-school season clean-out-the-drawers campaign and mentions in a spring cleaning "de-clutter" feature spread in Family Circle magazine.

The average U.S. household throws out 68 pounds of clothing and textiles annually and 23.8 billion pounds of it ends up burned or in landfills.

"More places collect donations now and that's fine, but we want our name and logo to be an icon for recycling," said chief executive Jim Gibbons.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Publix pulls plug on five-year run of in-store Little Clinics 05/16/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 5:07pm]

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