ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Vic Curtis has come a long way since he began working for Costco Wholesale in 1991 as a pharmacy manager.
Recently, he was promoted to SVP pharmacy and has seen action in prescription and OTC merchandising, pharmacy operations, mail-order and Internet-based pharmacy, and pharmacy benefit management services, as part of Costco’s team led by Charlie Burnett, the “dean” of Costco’s pharmacy/health and beauty business.
DEERFIELD, Ill. — A veteran of Walmart and Tesco, Walgreens VP merchandising Bryan Pugh brought a more analytical and customer-targeted approach to front-end merchandising. His oft-stated mission: to oversee, in coordination with the company’s Customer Centric Retailing initiative and other renewal efforts, a more cost-effective and more compelling merchandising strategy.
It wasn’t too long ago that SKU rationalization became commonplace, as many retailers attempted a course correction toward more profitable sets — establishing performance metrics that possibly favored bigger brands and their store-brand equivalents over slower-moving and slower-building brands. In other words, niche products. But now retailers are acknowledging they may have cut too much, opening a pathway of opportunity for many suppliers, especially those of promising niche brands. And, as the industry juggles the impact of a weak economy, ongoing consolidation and SKU rationalization, there’s no doubt that the role of the broker, or sales and marketing consultant, is changing and growing increasingly vital to niche brands and even retailers.
The value of niche is in the customer that a niche manufacturer brings through the door. Sometimes it’s measured in incremental opportunity, such as a prophylactic acne offering among a sea of acne treatments. And sometimes it’s measured in what happens if that niche brand is not on the shelf, driving the customer to another retail outlet. That value doesn’t change in a tough economy, but the factors that establish whether or not a niche manufacturer ever gets to the shelf, and stays on that shelf, do. There are two significant challenges for niche in today’s economic climate — SKU rationalization and the availability of capital.