Total Store Expo, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ annual gathering of executives and merchants across the mass retailing trade classes, is history for 2022. The three-day event unfolded smoothly and productively in Boston as August wound down.
Much has already been written and theorized about TSE. It has been variously labeled, praised and criticized as essential, superfluous, meaningful, unnecessary, worthwhile and time-wasting. Let’s begin by dismissing the negatives. Anytime mass market retailers and suppliers are presented with an opportunity to gather, discuss, debate and assess the industry, where it is and where it’s going, they should grab it. The nonsense about debating the merits of yet another exposition needs to be relegated to the trash bin of, yes, nonsense. Mass retailing is too volatile, too precarious, too changeable, too subject to quick changes and unexpected developments to allow even one chance to debate the future to pass by amid the endless debate about its importance. Yesterday’s debate is, in the end, rendered useless by today’s developments.
Next, there’s NACDS to consider. Retail business organizations abound. Some are worthwhile, others less so. NACDS, about to celebrate a milestone anniversary, is unarguably among the former. It is, and has long been, a quality organization. If you doubt that sentiment, just glance at the attendee list of the recent TSE. CEOs, presidents and senior executives were abundantly visible. So, too, were merchants at every retail level. Then, too, suppliers by the thousands showed up to display their wares, interact with their customers and take advantage of yet one more opportunity to swap ideas, offer suggestions and, hopefully, sell one more item — or, better still, sell that elusive first item.
As for the exposition itself, it was all it was billed to be — and lots more. Over three event-filled days and nights, retailers and suppliers met, talked, argued, debated, laughed, reminisced and did business together. In short, they did what retailers and suppliers have always done and always will do: They moved the industry forward.
Was the event perfect? Of course not. No single event could possibly live up to that exaggerated and unreasonable expectation. Was it worth the trip, the expense, the effort, the time away from the office or home-office? Unquestionably. That is, after all, what retailers and suppliers do, have always done, will hopefully continue to do going forward.
Were there disappointments? There always are. Meetings were canceled, delayed, deferred. Optimism sometimes became disappointment as anticipated sales-oriented meetings didn’t turn out as expected. That’s life. That’s retailing. That’s in the business of doing business. On the other hand, were there many attendees who wished they hadn’t come to Boston? Hardly any.
Finally, were there any big losers at TSE? Yes. Those people, companies, executives, merchants, salespeople and buyers who stayed home. They didn’t lose the game. How could they. They were never really in the game.
But even for them, there is the hope that Brooklyn Dodgers fans of another era once unfailingly voiced: Wait till next year. It can’t come too soon.
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