Inside This Issue - Opinion
NACDS Annual Meeting a hit
May 6th, 2013
by David Pinto, Editor
The 2013 Annual Meeting of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores unfolded smoothly, like so many before it, to the benefit of all but a few of the retailers and suppliers who attended — like so many before it.
The wonder in all this is the absence of wonder. Like the first greenery that signals the start of spring, it just happens every year.
Moreover, no one bothers to question this annual rite of spring any longer. The attendees — some 2,000 of them — simply accept the fact that the Annual Meeting will translate into time well spent.
This year’s event succeeded for all the usual reasons. First of all, the right people showed up. Most of those who lead the mass retailing industries, on both the retailer and supplier sides, traveled to the Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., as April wound down to participate in this year’s event. This alone made the event unique: the merging of the leadership of chain drug, supermarket, discount store, warehouse and dollar retailing. No other association event comes close to matching this turnout.
The association, as it always does, deserves a share of the credit, simply by conducting a meeting that unfolded flawlessly, without the glitches that bedevil most association events. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, the only remarkable thing that happened during the course of the meeting was that nothing remarkable happened. One event simply flowed, seamlessly, into the next.
The business program, as is usually the case, was serviceable, populated by the usual oratory, pledges, promises, challenges and admonitions. The one standout was Robert Gates, the longtime government official and former secretary of defense, who spoke clearly and sometimes eloquently about the dangers facing the United States and the world, leaving the audience with the message, intended or not, that while things are hopeless, they are not really all that serious.
A new NACDS chairman, Bob Narveson of the Thrifty White drug chain of greater Minneapolis, was introduced to the crowd, as the old one, Walgreens’ Greg Wasson, said goodbye. And here lies another key to the association’s success: its ability to attract world-class business people to head it. Like Wasson, Narveson is bright, engaged, committed to making a difference, and dedicated to making an impact on his association and his industry. He will not simply show up over the next 12 months. He will come to play. And the mass retailing industry will be the beneficiary.
With all this, however, the Annual Meeting succeeded because of the commitment of its participants, their determination to make it a success. That’s true of both the retailers and the suppliers. Notwithstanding the Florida sun, the opulence of the Breakers, the opportunities for diversion, the many social events and the entertainers better known to the younger attendees than the older — neither Frank Sinatra nor Bob Hope appeared — the people who came to Palm Beach came to work. And work they did. Indeed, the unofficial theme of the meeting was work. Meetings abounded, scheduled and unscheduled, throughout the four days of the gathering. People met in tents, in cabanas, in the lobby of the Breakers, in meeting rooms throughout the hotel, on the grass, at the pool, at the various dining facilities, in individual rooms. They came to do business — and they succeeded.
At meeting’s end, the plaudits outnumbered the gripes — there are always gripes — by 20 to 1, and the vast majority of those who came on Friday or Saturday left on Wednesday convinced that this year’s Annual Meeting was the best one yet. Indeed, the biggest losers were arguably those people who stayed home, mistakenly deterred by the cost, the venue or myriad other reasons business people find, invent or utilize to keep them from their appointed rounds. The place for the mass retailing industry to gather as April 2013 wound down was Palm Beach, Fla. Those who didn’t make the journey were the losers.
Now it’s on to August and the first NACDS Total Store Expo. Judging by all that’s logical, all that’s been written and said, and all the optimistic early reports as the event shapes up and gathers momentum, the only losers will be those who avoid Las Vegas in August because, after all, it gets pretty warm in Las Vegas in August, and what’s NACDS thinking in scheduling a meeting in Las Vegas in August in the first place?