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Five requisite Annual Meeting appointments

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As we, among others of lesser renown, have repeatedly pointed out, this year’s NACDS Annual Meeting will differ from those that have preceded it. For one obvious reason. It will be conducted virtually.

That being the case, we thought we would help you out by offering — indeed insisting on — five appointments you, whether retailer, supplier or third party, must make and keep if this Annual Meeting is to pay the dividends one usually expects from a meeting of this importance.

Here are the five:

  • Meet the senior Walgreens staff. More specifically, introduce yourself to Roz Brewer, the retailer’s new chief executive officer. Brewer’s appointment to this position, finalized earlier this year, marks a dramatic change in the direction, tone and emphasis of this highly regarded retailer. Forget all the flluff surrounding her, Brewer is an extremely intelligent and creative person. As such, she is bound to set Walgreens off on some new and previously uncharted directions, the combination of which can’t help but improve an already first-class drug chain. Don’t expect Brewer to share her plans with you (indeed, she hasn’t yet shared them with us, though we’re hopeful). But, as an observant participant in this meeting, you will gain some valuable insights into who she is and how she thinks.
  • Meet the senior CVS staff. Here again, the key staffer is the retailer’s new CEO, Karen Lynch. She is a bright, experienced executive whose health care background uniquely qualifies her to lead CVS into a new era, one defined by an ability to deliver health care services. Again, as with Brewer, Lynch is brimming with enthusiasm and confidence, two ingredients that this industry can never get enough of. To summarize, CVS, like Walgreens, is about to embark on a new era of innovation, excitement and accomplishment, led by a person who clearly grasps the rules, the parameters, the challenges — and the potential rewards,
  • Further develop your relationship with the senior Rite Aid staff. If we’ve said it once we’ve said it a thousand times: This is not your father’s Rite Aid. Not to demean the retailer’s previous leaders, but this new set (perhaps not so new at this juncture) is young, dynamic, brimming with confidence and creativity, full of new ways of looking at retailing, and even now making both changes and inroads in an existing institution whose best days are probably ahead. Moreover, if this retailer asks, think carefully before you decline. Put another way, this is a horse worth backing.
  • Secure meetings with Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. These two pharmaceutical houses, to put things into perspective, have changed the game. As evidence we need only say this: You’re here aren’t you? Whatever bumps have surfaced along the way, Pfizer and J&J have done what some skeptics thought impossible: They’ve developed vaccines that worked against COVID-19. But these meetings aren’t simply to thank these two companies, though that’s not a bad idea. Rather, it’s to ascertain how they feel about what they’ve accomplished and, more important, what are the next strep on this journey. One assumes that there will be next steps. But the objective here is not to learn them. Rather, it is to ascertain how these companies are thinking — and what they’ve thinking of. It’s a simple deduction to conclude that these companies could not have gotten this far without retail cooperation. The question then is this: How do they propose to work with chain drug retailers, and those not-quite-as-important entities adjacent to them (the title of this publication is, after all, Chain Drug Review).
  • We’ve saved the most important assignment for the last: Secure a meeting with Steve Anderson and Jim Whitman. The objective here is simple. Thank them for what they’ve attempted — and accomplished — in this most trying of years. What NACDS in general — and Anderson and Whitman specifically — have achieved defies belief. If you doubt that, ask yourself this simple question once again: You’re here aren’t you?

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