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NACDS Annual was and will be unmissable

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Here, somewhat belatedly, are some final thoughts about the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Annual Meeting, held in late April in Palm Beach, Fla.

In terms of overall impressions, it must be said at the outset that this much-anticipated event was all its strongest supporters had hoped for — and one which even its doubters (who were plentiful) acknowledged was worth waiting for. Additionally, it must be pointed out that the chain drug store industry without NACDS and its Annual Meeting is an incomplete package, an occasion waiting to happen, a promise never quite fulfilled.

To elaborate on a subject that needs no more elaboration, chain drug retailing is an industry of people. Throughout its impressive history of accomplishment and overachievement, it has relied on people to make things happen, to transform hope into reality, to turn tomorrow’s plans into today’s realities. The magic week where this transformation magically happens is the week, in April, that the industry traditionally comes together, either in Palm Beach or in the western territories. The coming-together at the end of April brought it all back — and then some.

So much for the hurrahs. Was the event perfect? No. Though it came close. Among those missing in Palm Beach were many of the people, both retailers and suppliers, who had combined to make previous meetings special. Too many past attendees got cold feet, or decided to wait until next year, uncertain that this year’s event would succeed. They needn’t have waited — and they need wait no longer. NACDS, by staging the Annual Meeting, proudly announced its return.

The program? Adequate. But not special. As in previous years, the main attraction at this year’s event could be found not in the main meeting hall but in the Breakers’ lobby. That was where old friends renewed relationships and new relationships were formed. It was where plans were made, commitments recommitted to, buyer-seller relationships resurrected.

A stronger business program would have helped clear out the lobby. Ironically, however, it would have diluted the impact of renewal. Clearly, the business program remains a work in progress. But just as clearly, NACDS will work it out.

The social agenda? Just about perfect. Here, the supplier community, as it has always done, reached out to welcome the chain drug retailers with a series of receptions, events, dinners and opportunities, in an informal setting, to resume doing business as it has always been done. If the business of America is business, the business of chain drug retailing is doing business — and, once again, as in olden days, the Annual Meeting was where the action was.

Final thoughts? A few. But the overarching one is a reminder that the people, on both sides of the desk, who sat this one out don’t dare think of doing that again. They were the losers this time around. They will lose again next year if they stay home.

Finally … There are many industry gatherings in mass retailing that each year bring buyers and sellers together. Some are quite worth the effort to attend. But, in the end, there is only one meeting that’s imperative. It’s the NACDS Annual Meeting. It will reconvene next April.

Before you know it.


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