Lupin 2023

NACDS remains the industry’s hub

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Chain drug retailing has changed dramatically in the first decade of the 21st century. Nowhere have those changes been more evident than in the character and content of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Here are some examples of the changes that NACDS has seen over the past decade:

• In 2000 Alan Levin was NACDS chairman. Today he serves as the economic development secretary for the state of Delaware.

• Ten years ago Craig Fuller was NACDS president. Today the association is led by
Steve Anderson, while Fuller works for the private pilots association.

• The size of the NACDS retailer and supplier membership has not changed all that much in the past decade, but the sizes of its individual members are in some instances dramatically different. CVS, for example, operated 4,000 drug stores in 2000, compared to 7,000 today. Walgreens was a 2,800-store drug chain 10 years ago; today it is a 7,000-store drug chain. Wal-Mart operated 4,900 stores in 2000, 2,700 with pharmacies. The numbers today: 8,222 stores, more than 4,000 with pharmacies. Target was a 900-store retailer 10 years ago, 400 of which included pharmacies. Target today is a 1,743-store retailer, with pharmacies in 1,542 of those stores.

• The makeup of the NACDS board of directors in 2000 bears little resemblance to the composition of today’s board. Frank Newman, then Eckerd’s chief executive, had just completed his one-year term as NACDS chairman. Now both Newman and Eckerd are yesterday’s news. Similarly, such onetime industry leaders as Walgreens’ Dave Bernauer, Shoppers Drug Mart’s Dave Bloom, CVS’ Chuck Conaway, Kinney Drugs’ Rich Cognetti, Duane Reade’s Tony Cuti, Brooks Pharmacy’s Michel Coutu and May’s Drug Stores’ Gerry Heller were NACDS board members. While most of those drug chains remain, the people who led them have left the industry.

Some names and faces haven’t changed. Ten years ago, Andy Giancamilli, then president of Kmart, was NACDS treasurer. Today, he heads Canada’s Katz Group North America and is the association’s chairman.

Tony Civello was and remains CEO of Kerr Drug; he was and remains an NACDS board member. In the interim between then and now, however, he led the chain drug store association during its most turbulent years, keeping both the industry and the association together at a time when internal pressures, conflict and dissension threatened to tear it apart.

Mark Griffin, then as now CEO of Lewis Drugs, still occupies a board seat, as he did in 2000. In the interim, however, he too has made his mark in the chain drug retailing community, serving a term as NACDS chairman and distinguishing himself, as he continues to do today, as an exemplary leader committed both to chain drug retailing and to the association behind it.

Finally, Tom Ryan, then as now CVS chief executive, served on the NACDS board in 2000, as he continues to do today. In the years between, he has come to epitomize the best of chain drug industry leadership, building his company from a drug chain with $20 billion in sales in 2000 to a health care conglomerate with sales of $76.33 billion today. In the bargain, he has distinguished himself as a chain drug industry leader and spokesman without peer, an industry supporter of unequaled stature and perspicacity, a visionary that has become all too rare in chain drug retailing.

• Mostly, names from the past fill the pages of an NACDS membership directory from 2000 (indeed, the printed, easily thumbed directory is itself now a relic of another time), names like Bob Long, Steve Roath, Howard Sternheim, Dan Jorndt, Gary Michael, Kevin Tripp and Jerry Zlotnik.

• Similarly, many of the drug chains that once anchored the industry are gone. Albertson’s, a retail powerhouse and chain drug leader (Osco, Sav-on) in 2000, is now the name attached to the stores Supervalu passed on when it bought the food/drug retailer in 2006. Albertsons today is a regional supermarket chain headed by former Rite Aid chairman Bob Miller. Brooks Eckerd Pharmacy has been absorbed by Rite Aid, while Discount Drug Mart, Happy Harry’s and Drug Fair of New Jersey have been swallowed up by Walgreens. Drug Emporium is a relic of another age, as are May’s Drug and Phar-Mor.

Some drug chains have been reborn, given a new life and a new sense of purpose. Duane Reade comes most readily to mind here, energized by a pair of Canadians who have brought new life, purpose and excitement to a chain that was until recently noteworthy only for the location of its stores.

Happily, however, many of the best, if not the biggest, chain drug retailers remain — and many of the people who built the industry are still in place.

The Bartell family still operates the best drug chain in the Pacific Northwest. Steve Oliva still operates Hi-School Pharmacy in the Northwest. Kinney Drugs remains dominant in upstate New York, while Morley Cohn’s innovative Kopp Drug chain continues to do a brisk business in central Pennsylvania.

And of course Lewis Drugs, USA Drug and Kerr Drug remain today what they were a decade ago — three of America’s strongest and most durable regional drug chains.

Anchoring it all, now as it did then, is the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the hub around which the industry turns, the organization that continues to give the chain drug industry direction, purpose and a set of common objectives, the underpinning that transforms a group of chain drug stores into a chain drug industry.


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