NACDS again shows it is without peer

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Less than a month has passed since the National Association of Chain Drug Stores hosted its 2015 Annual Meeting in Palm Beach, Fla. By all accounts, the event was hugely productive, as retailer and supplier attendees from around the country and throughout the industry journeyed to South Florida in the most optimistic mood the chain drug industry has seen in perhaps the last six years.

The usual concerns were in evidence, of course, as meeting-goers groused about Walgreens’ plans as it integrates its Chicago franchise with its Alliance Boots acquisition, and many retailers wondered aloud about the changing makeup of the supplier community. But gripes aside, most visitors to Palm Beach acknowledged that business had indeed turned the corner, sales were robust, and the new faces that dotted the landscape were mostly refreshing ones, eager to advance or change the model and bring new ideas to an industry that had operated for too long on the same plateau.

cdr-filler-opinion-750As for the meeting itself, it unfolded without too many glitches, though many convention-goers voiced their disappointment that the business program that occupied two mornings was not more robustly attended.

At the meeting-ending dinner on the final night, three industry veterans were recognized for their contributions to the chain drug industry: Greg Wasson, former president and CEO of Walgreens, received the Sheldon W. Fantle Lifetime Achievement Award, while the Robert B. Begley Award went to David Heist, director of industry affairs and customer relations at Bayer Consumer Care, and Lou Martire, vice president of trade and industry development for Energizer Household Products at Energizer Holdings Inc. And throughout, the much-anticipated social activities delighted those attendees who ­participated.

In retrospect, NACDS once more showed that it is without peer in mounting a retail conference, especially one that revolves around senior executives. In the end, the attendance proved to be the show-stopper, and those who stayed away did so at their loss. In short, during the last week of April, Florida was the place to be.

Now it’s back to business for chain drug retailing, while NACDS ramps up for the Total Store Expo event scheduled for Denver in August. The NACDS board has welcomed several new members, again with a decidedly positive spin, while a new chairman, Randy Edeker, chairman and CEO of Hy-Vee Inc., moves into the association’s retail leadership position. About Edeker, it must be said at the outset that the timing of this appointment, and the personality and intelligence of the appointee, auger well for the association’s near-term future. Indeed, it must also be said that the growing diversity of the NACDS board speaks well of an organization that has perhaps relied for too long on chain drug leadership at the expense of other retail segments.

For now, NACDS must, or should, be satisfied that its signature event has been the success members expected, as it turns its attention to the more-difficult task of rousing the membership to support TSE. And it is, to be sure, a more difficult task.

It’s certainly true that TSE has easily replaced the Marketplace Conference it was created to, er, replace. It’s livelier, more meaningful, more energetic and, thus far, more rewarding than its predecessor. Of course, it must also be noted that TSE remains, in its third year, very much a work in progress. However, it’s progressing very nicely indeed, and the Denver show promises, at this early date, to be the best in the series thus far.

But NACDS’ agenda going forward is not limited to TSE or, indeed, to basking in the glory of the Annual Meeting. This is a vital, vibrant association, one that delivers benefits for its members in direct proportion to the efforts its members spend in support of the organization. For now, the calendar going forward is crammed with meaningful events, programs that will reward those member companies and individuals prepared to commit their time and energy to these programs.

For the rest of the membership, the association will continue to hold out temptations in the hope that more members will sign on as the months of 2015 continue to fly by.

A final word: The 2015 NACDS Annual Meeting was everything its supporters hoped it would be — a glittering success.



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