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CDMA aims ‘to be the front-end source’

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NOVI, Mich. — The Chain Drug Marketing Association (CDMA) has not just withstood the consolidation of the chain drug industry. It has grown in spite of it.

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Jim Devine, president of the Chain Drug Marketing Association

CDMA has broadened its membership with grocery stores and wholesalers, as well as convenience store chains, notes president Jim Devine. “We’re going beyond the drug channel,” he says.

At the same time, the association has expanded the breadth of categories it distributes, offering more general merchandise in addition to products under its Quality Choice store brand. “We want to be the front-end source for as much as we can be, for all of our members,” says Devine.

To accommodate the growth, the organization has expanded its distribution center from 44,000 to 70,000 square feet. Also, David Jenkins has been hired as senior category manager for general merchandise. He was director of purchasing at Fruth Pharmacy, a CDMA member.

Jenkins will help the organization develop programs for basics such as umbrellas, flashlights and batteries, and possibly an 8-foot toy planogram. For retailers needing small quantities, the programs will divide cases of 144 products into packages of as few as 12.

“So we hope to be a much more important part of their front-end business as time goes on,” says Devine.

CDMA will also maintain its seasonal business for back-to-school, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. The organization meets retailers’ needs for candy as well as other holiday merchandise.

“What we’ll try and achieve, especially with David coming on, is to be a one-stop shop for seasonal needs, from ruby costumes for Halloween to Valentine’s Day candy,” Devine explains. “That’s a big initiative and one of the reasons we’ve increased our warehouse staff and warehouse space.”

CDMA caters to small chains with up to 200 stores that can’t meet minimum shipment demands of large wholesalers and suppliers. The distribution center expansion allows the organization to warehouse items that members can order in small quantities, such as Taylor bathroom scales or eos lip balm. (CDMA also offers private label Revo lip balm in eos-like ball packaging). Between now and CDMA’s February trade show, the organization will add still more general merchandise, according to Devine.

In the private label arena, the association is excited about its new Awaken by Quality Choice beauty line, including regenerating wrinkle creams and other skin care products being advertised by major suppliers.

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The Awaken beauty care banner is one of the key additions to CDMA’s successful Quality Choice private label program.

“We’ve got them at very nice price points,” Devine says. “The distribution has been good, and we’re just starting to see reorders come in. The No. 1 item has been facial makeup remover pads.”

Also this year, CDMA added some 300 Quality Choice SKUs, including Mucinex-like cough/cold products, urinary tract infection treatments, and products switched from prescription to over-the-counter status. It has upgraded its hair brush offerings with fancy products with paddle handles and colors for younger users.

The association ships from its Novi, Mich., distribution center to 33 states, the West Indies and Belize. The membership count is at 142, with the bulk of private label sales going to regional drug wholesalers such as North Carolina Mutual, Value Drug, Rochester Drug, Valley Wholesale Drug, Dakota Drug, Frank W. Kerr Co., and Drogueria Betances Inc., which is in Puerto Rico.

A new account for Quality Choice is 202-unit Asheville, N.C.-based supermarketer Ingles Markets Inc. “That’s been a big boost for us,” Devine ­comments.

CDMA generally sources products from members of the Private Label Manufacturers Association, meaning its items are mostly manufactured in the United States. That has put the association in a good position in light of the backlash against Chinese-made products, Devine says.

In addition, CDMA is benefiting from its alliance with True Value Co. CDMA members are doing more than $3.5 million worth of business with True Value, taking advantage of deals on paper towels, detergent, gifts and personal care appliances, as well as hardware. Orders of as little as $1,000 can be shipped for direct store delivery.

Also helping CDMA members is the organization’s partnership with Worldwide Distributors for toys and soft goods. The joint venture works especially well for the many CDMA members selling hats, T-shirts and sweatshirts as well as Mattel and Fisher Price toys. And a new alliance with Cincinnati-based Merchandise Inc. will allow members to order as little as $250 worth of cosmetics and hair care products. Such quantities would be impossible to get via direct store delivery.

The CDMA Trade Expo — the 90th anniversary event — is coming up in February. At the outset of the show, the Store Brand Forum will bring together Quality Choice suppliers and buyers.

“We’re a whole different organization from when I started in 1990,” says Devine. “We went from New York to Chicago to Michigan. But we kept changing with the industry. I guess the worst day in my history was when we lost Harco and K&B in the same day to Rite Aid. That was not a fun day for Jim Devine. But we survived, and with David Jenkins aboard, we are looking again to really increase the front-end program.”

Devine, 76, is due to retire next June. But the management of CDMA is expected to stay in the family. His son John, CDMA’s executive vice president, is slated to succeed him as president.


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