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Five confident predictions for the coming year

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Now that 2020 has finally, and mercifully, wound down, and a new year finally, and mercifully, is about to dawn, there is cause for optimism. It is an optimism based, at least in part, on the theory that the coming year cannot be worse than the year just ended.

In that spirit, the editors of Chain Drug Review have compiled five predictions that are guaranteed — GUARANTEED — to be fulfilled before December of 2021 rolls around. Well, perhaps guaranteed is too strong a word. But nonetheless, we feel pretty sure that the events that we’re now predicting will become certainties before too many months have passed.

• The National Association of Chain Drug Stores will convene a live meeting sometime in the next 12 months. We’re not yet prepared to say when. Nor are we comfortable revealing which meeting will take place. Nonetheless our best estimate is that the NACDS Annual Meeting will be held in Palm Beach, Fla. — or Phoenix, Ariz. — during the last week in April or the first week in May in 2021. By then, our editors believe, the current pandemic will be no more than a distant — well, maybe not so distant — memory. And the chain drug industry, once again anchored by NACDS, will proceed smoothly forward. And all the industry people who have truly missed the interaction and personal relationships of years gone by — and that’s most of us — will once more move forward in the certainty that the industry people we have long known, liked, disliked and tolerated will once again resurface. And we will once more thank the National Association of Chain Drug Stores for being there when we most need it.

• CVS will welcome a new chief executive. By new we mean someone the chain drug industry does not yet know. That means it will not be Stan Goldstein, Larry Merlo or Tom Ryan. More startling, it will be a woman. How can we be so certain, you may ask? Because the appointment has already been announced.

• Larry Merlo will be sorely missed. How do we know? Because we know that anyone who has come to know Larry during the past decade — and that means almost everyone who matters in this industry — is even now ruing the day when he is no longer an integral part of who we are and what we do.

• At least once new face, as yet unidentified, will emerge at the very top of the Walgreens chain of command. How do we know this? Truth is, we don’t. But if the past is prologue, and it always is, a forward-looking retailer like Walgreens has never stood still. The new year, we believe, will be no exception. So look for a new face, and some new thinking, atop America’s most revered drug chain. And look for CVS, Rite Aid and any other mass retailer that competes with Walgreens to have all that they can handle — and then some.

• To end this exploration into the near future our editors are not content with just one more prediction. Rather, we’re offering several. For one, Amazon will no longer be outside the chain drug industry, looking in. The fact that America’s foremost online retailer is entering the prescription drug business is proof enough that Amazon is about to enter a new episode. What form that episode will take is still uncertain. But this much is certain: Amazon is not going away. And the chain drug industry will be better for that certainty.

Our editors also believe that both Walmart and Target will become even more dynamic and competitive than they are today, as that competitiveness affects the chain drug industry. These are, after all, two of the very best mass retailers that have even opened their doors. The feeling here is that they will only get better.

The same can be accurately said for the best of the grocery retailers. That list includes Kroger, H-E-B, Hy-Vee, Albertsons, Wegmans and so many others that have been nipping at the heels of America’s drug chains for lo these many years. Well, the news is that they are no longer nipping. They are here to stay.

And, oh, yes. Chain drug retailing will be better for the competition. Happy New Year. It can only be better than the year that is not ending.


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