Anderson: Total Store Expo shows retail, health care today & tomorrow
I was asked to share with Chain Drug Review readers a few thoughts about what is new in terms of pharmacy and front-end topics. As it turns out, the answer to this question is very similar to the answer to another frequently asked question: What will be new at the 2016 NACDS Total Store Expo?
The fact is that NACDS members, including chains and suppliers, are creating the future of pharmacy, the future of health and wellness, and the future of retail-based solutions to consumers’ needs. I prefer to look at NACDS not so much as an organization, but more as a living organism, of which each member is a vital part.
In that way, what you see at the NACDS Total Store Expo is what you will get in terms of the future of patient care and consumer satisfaction.
As I write this in late June, 732 exhibiting companies — including 125 first-time exhibitors — will participate and engage with retailer attendees, which shows the strength and the dynamic nature of the industry and NACDS. In addition, there are several specific aspects of the program that shed light on the state and future of the industry.
Vision 2027’s tech flair
Currently, 14 companies have committed to showcase their products and services at Vision 2027, a forward-looking special attraction in the NACDS Total Store Expo Exhibit Hall. Participants have really interesting stories to tell in the areas of digital marketing, virtual reality, inventory management, merchandising, consumer trend analysis, omnichannel, store operations and more.
Even without having experienced Vision 2027 yet, it strikes me that one of the key takeaways from the attraction will be the creative connections between all of these products and services that attendees will imagine. Each individual company, product and service will give us something to marvel at. The added value of experiencing them at one time and in one place will add significant value by demonstrating just how much operational efficiency and the shopping experience will be enhanced — simultaneously — in the years ahead.
The same can be said of the entire exhibit hall. It is going to be fascinating to see the new products and services on display, and the portrait they create together.
Insight Sessions strategically focused
Given the preponderance of tech-focused products and services in the futuristic Vision 2027 attraction, it is to be expected that the NACDS Total Store Expo Insight Sessions also will feature a technological bent. Indeed, they bring that focus and more.
One session will focus on the third consecutive digital marketing survey by A.T. Kearney and NACDS. It will provide not only a snapshot of where the industry stands today but also an enhanced trendline with the benefit of three years’ worth of insights about this area of increasing importance.
Other sessions — spanning pharmacy, health and wellness, and consumer goods retailing — will focus on predictive analysis through health information technology; telehealth; point-of-care testing; consumer-driven health care; controlled-substances issues; collaboration between retailers and suppliers on new product introductions; multicultural marketing; and transportation, distribution and logistics trends.
The 2016 NACDS Total Store Expo is bringing a fresh approach to transportation, distribution and logistics issues with its Supply Chain Summit. It is fascinating to see the ways in which demands on the supply chain have spurred enhanced use of technology, and how the evolution of technology in turn has taken expectations on the supply chain to an even higher level.
For example, much attention is being paid to the impact of omnichannel on supply chain operations, out-of-stocks, and how retailers and suppliers can better collaborate to improve on-shelf availability. These topics are going to be worked over quite well at the Supply Chain Summit.
Popular features created by members
There is a very good reason that two of the long-standing features of NACDS meetings and conferences — Meet the Market and Meet the Retailer — remain highly popular and decidedly future-focused. The reason is that they are created by company decision makers themselves.
With its guaranteed meetings between retailers and suppliers, Meet the Market helps to match the right sellers with the right buyers. Meet the Retailer helps suppliers understand exactly what is on the minds, and in the strategic plans, of business partners. Together with the business meetings that happen throughout the conference to follow up on initial discussions at Meet the Market and Meet the Retailer, NACDS Total Store Expo delivers the “transaction of ideas” that NACDS events represent.
As I write this, more than a month before the start of the conference, I know that plans are under way to make the most of all of these opportunities. The story of “what’s new” is preparing to unfold amid all of that preparation, and it is truly inspiring to think about.
Policy arena figures prominently
Especially for those who do not think about government policies every day, I like to take the opportunity at NACDS meetings and conferences to emphasize the significant effects of government actions on retailers’ and suppliers’ efforts to create new solutions and new opportunities for patients and consumers.
At the federal and state levels alike, public policy can improve the path for pro-patient, pro-consumer and pro-pharmacy initiatives. Or, even the most well-intended policies can inflict unintended consequences that create tremendous barriers.
On such issues as expanding pharmacists’ scope of practice, and defending and improving access to health care products and services available through NACDS members, NACDS constantly remains proactively situated to advocate on behalf of the membership.
NACDS Total Store Expo attendees also will experience NACDS’ focus on getting out the pharmacy vote during the 2016 elections. It’s often said that “people are policy,” and it is vital for pharmacy personnel to volunteer and vote for the candidates of their choice. When pharmacy conveys its political activism, elected officials take notice.
I saw an opinion piece recently in The Wall Street Journal that discussed the urgent need to “put the public back into public policy” — as articulated by Pete Peterson, dean of the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University. I think one of NACDS’ core strengths is the degree to which the association operates as a member-driven association, advocating for the issue positions that are created by the consensus of the NACDS board of directors. Another core strength is the degree to which NACDS operates as a force multiplier by rallying the grassroots engagement of the membership to advance those positions.
The same can be said of the other aspects of NACDS. Just as it is essential to put the “public” back into “public policy,” it is essential for the “trade” and everything it does to serve the American public to remain at the heart of the “trade association.”
By virtue of keeping that appropriate focus on the membership, the questions of “what’s new” at the NACDS Total Store Expo and “what’s new” in the industry are highly complementary. I look forward to the answers to those questions, which you will help to create this August in Boston.
Steve Anderson is the president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.