A recent event affirmed a retailing revolution. Representatives from some of America’s leading mass market retailers gathered in New York City to accept awards for the contributions they have made to their companies and the retailing community. What was remarkable — or perhaps not so — was that these award winners were all women.
They represented such companies as Walgreens, Rite Aid, Albertsons Cos. and Dollar General, as well as the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. These women had previously been cited by MMR, sister publication to Chain Drug Review, as being among mass market retailing’s most influential women.
It was altogether fitting and proper that they be so recognized. In many instances, these women are among the leading performers at the companies for which they toil. All are integral to the success these retailers continue to enjoy.
Not surprisingly, the honorees acquitted themselves flawlessly as they accepted the recognition. They spent little time in their remarks lauding their own performance, choosing instead to acknowledge their fellow staffers, the organizations for which they work, and the retailing community of which they are a part.
In truth, talented and experienced women have been contributing to mass retailing in America for almost as long as the industry itself has served on the cutting edge of U.S. business. Often — too often — they have labored behind the scenes. But among them have been staffers unwilling to allow others to accept the credit and financial rewards that other, less talented individuals have often been only too happy to usurp.
Happily, those days appear to have ended. In executive suites from Rhode Island and Pennsylvania to Chicago, Cincinnati and Nashville, and to such western outposts as Boise, Idaho, women have become, in larger part, the engines that allow retailers to function and succeed, that indeed have brought these companies to the forefront of U.S. business, and, in the process, eased the road for other women to succeed as leaders of their companies and industry. So it is today that female merchants and operators, legal minds and marketers, and assorted support personnel at such national and nationally prominent retailers as Walgreens Boots Alliance, CVS, Rite Aid, Dollar General, Walmart and Albertsons, and such prominent retail associations as NACDS and the Food Marketing Institute, not only succeed but excel.
In citing the accomplishments of women in mass retailing in its June 24 issue, MMR specifically recognized 50 executives from a dozen different organizations. In truth, the publication could have — and perhaps should have — designated many more. Time and space constraints limited the number of women profiled. But the numbers chosen don’t begin to tell the story.
For these women are familiar to anyone even marginally connected to the mass retailing community. Often, they serve as the point of initial contact to the companies they represent. Far more frequently, they form the link between the retailers and the supplier community often behind the retailers’ success. Most frequently, they help orchestrate that success, often dominating the interaction between retailer and supplier, between retailer and consumer, between retailer and the business community.
It would, to a large degree, be pointless to name specific award winners. Some of the executives recognized by MMR are as familiar to the mass retail community as their male counterparts to whom they report. Others are less familiar, faces the industry has long acknowledged and respected even if the specific functions they perform are sometimes misunderstood, mislabeled or missed entirely.
In either case, these women have, through the force of their personalities, intelligence and work ethic, made themselves indispensable to the companies and larger retail community that enjoy the benefits of their expertise.
Perhaps the day will come, before too many more days have passed, when more women are truly recognized as the drivers of the success mass retailing in America enjoys. On that day a new era will begin, and the retailing industry, the people it employs and the customers it serves will be the beneficiaries.