August has thus far been the cruelest month in this very daunting year.

David Pinto, annual pharmacy conference, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Boston, Hurricane Irene, Charlie Bowlus, ECRM, NACDS,

Other Services
Reprints / E-Prints
Submit News
White Papers

Inside This Issue - Opinion

NACDS made the right call

September 19th, 2011
by David Pinto, Editor

August has thus far been the cruelest month in this very daunting year.

The mass retailing industry had barely come to terms with the sudden death of ECRM’s Charlie Bowlus before Hurricane Irene devastated major portions of the Northeast, putting a damper on the annual pharmacy conference hosted by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, an event whose opening coincided with Irene’s arrival.

Many of those who were scheduled to attend the Boston meeting canceled in advance of the storm, warned off by reports that Irene would be another Katrina and Boston would come to duplicate the fate of New Orleans. Others dropped out as word of retailer cancellations spread.

As it happened, many of those who could easily have reached Boston in advance of the hurricane never even tried. Others who cancelled found, after the event, that they had acted prematurely, and, given a second chance, would have come. Indeed, Irene hardly touched Boston.

In the end, some 25% of those scheduled to attend the pharmacy conference never showed up. And NACDS, in retrospect, found itself in the midst of an unenviable quandary: Should the association have canceled the meeting, disappointing those who did get to Boston? Or should the conference have been allowed to unfold as scheduled, frustrating those who never made it to Boston, several of whom went so far as to irrationally and unfairly demand their exhibit money back.

NACDS has always been a favorite trade association of this publication, primarily because it is our belief that the chain drug group offers its retailer and supplier members more for their money than any other retail trade organization. Among the compelling reasons NACDS stands out, in our view, are the quality, viability, strength and relevance of its extensive array of exhibits, conferences and meetings. Perhaps the best example of this melding of quality and relevance can be found in its annual pharmacy conference, easily the most significant retail pharmacy-based event available to the mass retailing community.

Had NACDS chosen to call off the pharmacy conference at the last minute, when many of the attendees had already arrived in Boston — as many other retail trade associations might have done — the association would have been guilty of bowing to the pressure of the few at the expense of the many. In choosing instead to allow the conference to proceed as scheduled, the association honored its commitment to a membership that, in the main, anticipated, wanted and showed up for the event.

Not surprisingly, those industry people who did come to Boston found the conference as valuable and productive as they assumed it would be. Indeed, the absence of the some of the retail attendees proved an added benefit for the suppliers on hand, allowing them more time with those retailers who did show up.

Then, too, as so often happens when an event unfolds against a background of crisis and real or imagined danger, virtually every attendee truly enjoyed the conference — most particularly the unique opportunities it presented to develop and hone those personal relationships around which all business revolves.

As for the NACDS staff, it once again proved to be the most professional and experienced yet assembled in the retail association ranks. Refusing to bow to pressure, unyielding in its efforts to make the conference work, undaunted by the flurry of last-minute cancellations that would have thwarted less-professional organizations, unfazed by the absence of several key retailers and suppliers, the NACDS staff remained at its post throughout the event, assuring that those industry people who did attend got their money’s worth — and then some.

In the end, then, this was possibly NACDS’ finest hour.