Retail Rx embraces change

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PALM BEACH, Fla. — Change, both confronting it and creating it, emerged as a powerful theme of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Annual Meeting, which was held here last month. The theme of change was clearly on display in the remarks made during the Business Programs by NACDS chairman of the board Alex Gourlay, who is also co-chief operating officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance and president of Walgreens; NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson; and incoming NACDS chairman Mark Panzer, who is also senior vice president of pharmacy, health and wellness at ­Albertsons Cos.

Gourlay reviewed “a year of progress for customers and communities” in a “massively changing and challenging world.”

“Change has accelerated from when we spoke last year,” he said. “In health care, it has been about restructuring our industry to become more efficient in the marketplace, and in retail it really is about empowering the consumer — to see the choices and products available to them.”

Throughout his year as NACDS chairman, Gourlay emphasized putting customers first by bringing new approaches to three areas: health care affordability and price transparency; fostering convenience, efficiency and experience; and building trust by emphasizing community engagement and corporate social responsibility.

“Redefining convenience has always been at the heart of the pharmacy model,” Gourlay said. “It’s about the marketplace that you create that brings it all together. As a pharmacist, I believe in the commitment to what we do.”

Noting NACDS’ 85th anniversary celebration, Anderson said, “Neither the past nor the future gives the complete perspective. What matters now is the transformation. We need to evaluate the power of the transformation of NACDS: our past travels, our trajectory, and what they mean for NACDS chain and associate members alike.

“NACDS is about chains and suppliers collaborating, to benefit the consumer, the nation, and the business. That is the infinite goal of NACDS, and doing that through the years requires an intentional, determined and spirited transformation. But that is not always easy. Associations are the intersection of business, politics and public policy. And those roads are surely not smooth and straight. Today’s it is white knuckle time, as our hands grip the wheel. So, like your business, associations need to adapt. They need to press forward, and evolve. Really, the transformation is constant.”

Anderson described elements of NACDS’ constant transformation that have kept NACDS ahead of the curves of change.

In his first remarks as chairman of NACDS, Panzer thanked those who have taught and collaborated with him throughout his 46-year retail career. He said that NACDS chain and associate members alike can rely on the same formula of “listen, learn and engage” to confront both rapid change and the timeless pursuit of serving the customer.

“As I start this chairmanship, it really is an extension of what I’ve been taught, and what I’ve tried to do throughout my career,” he said. “That’s taking care of the patient and the customer, working well with our partners, and taking care of all our team members along the way. I believe everyone in this room — retailers and suppliers — shares these goals. There is so much we can do, and specifically so much we can do through NACDS.”

Panzer focused on three topics: changes in retail; the importance of NACDS’ all-industry approach encompassing diverse chains and suppliers; and crucial public policy issues that NACDS is ­addressing.

He described rapid acceleration in the speed and scope of change — and the demand for speed in response — particularly as it relates to e-commerce and its relationship with brick-and-mortar retailing. He said the personal connection in retail remains essential. “We have better tools, better data, better analytical skill. We need to utilize all of these things in this rapidly changing retail environment. But native intelligence, gained through frontline experience and face-to-face customer interaction, is invaluable and must still play a critical role at the decision-making table.”


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