5 Big Ideas from the 2013 Industry Issues Summit

BY Dan Mack

“How do we develop and maintain higher level strategic partnerships?”
That was the theme of the recent Drug Store Industry Issues Summit in New York in December. Once a year, senior retail and manufacturing leaders get together to review the ever changing dynamics around how we create value for each other while satisfying the needs of the shopper. The summit focused on strategies for elevating retailer and manufacturer relationships, and the three stumbling blocks that hinder growth including:   

–    Almost half of all retailers and manufacturers don’t believe their partnerships are as deep as they would like.

–    Only 1/3 of all manufacturers believe risk is being jointly shared with their retail partners.  And half of retailers believe their manufacturing partners are assuming enough risk.  

–    Only 1/3 of both retailers and manufacturers believe they are being as transparent as they could be?  

If the goals are truly aligned, why is there seemingly too much lack of alignment vs. being focused on achieving mutual outcomes?   

Makes me wonder if we all truly understand each other’s interests, and are we aligned.   

The following are five big ideas that came out loud and clear during the panel discussion.   Let‘s see how you are doing.

Idea #1:  Launch Real Innovation:  To quote one senior retail executive “most new item launches have supposedly earned 2-box consumer acceptance based on prelaunch testing, but very few ever deliver on the promise.”  Real innovation fills a whitespace and is supported by your unique intellectual properties and validated with real insights that minimize risk. Setting the right financial expectations, supported with a robust 2-year marketing plan and an upfront exit strategy is the best practice in designing a new item launch plan. Do you dare being that committed?

Idea #2:   Relevant Insights:  Top retail executives are looking for new knowledge that helps them optimize their category, support changing consumer needs and brand their store.  Some of the best and most valuable “cutting edge” insights include emerging international trends or ethnographic knowledge on how their consumer utilizes products within the home. The ethnographer lives among the people (in their home), studying their habits, lifestyles, challenges while remaining objective.  This research allows you to go deeper, becoming more valuable in the eyes of the retailer.

Idea #3:   What’s Next?  All retailers shared that they want their partners to help them understand and design products which support the shopper’s changing needs.  In other words, they are looking to better understand “what’s next?”  Top retail executives want to partner with manufacturers that harness the knowledge within their broader company, and uncover new ideas bubbling up on the fringe of the market on in other countries.  It was clear that the panel is tired of hearing the same ole generic insights.  The best practice is to only share information or trends they are currently not aware of, allowing them to create the future. Retail executives are also hungry for insights on how to build stronger relationships with their core customers, Hispanics and the growing Millennial Consumer.

Idea #4:   Joint Business Planning (JBP):  The most important Joint Business Planning philosophy is to align the planning process around vision and values, while centering on shared expectations and goals.  When retailer & manufacturer think like one company, they drive mutual accountability, facilitate disruptive innovation and all departments (sales – marketing – supply chain – merchandising) are involved in the development and score carding of the business.

Transactional business planning is a waste of everyone’s time.  The best planning engagements are about solving unique category problems or creating a best in class shopping experience with the retailer’s core consumer.  It is time to think different!

Idea #5:  Ruthless Trust:  Always look to seek the ruthless truth about how you are perceived and valued by your retail partners.  The key message from our retail panel was to “have the guts to share what your expectations are and to honestly push back if you believe you are not in a win/win partnership.”

Philosophically, retailers are looking for manufacturers who are objective and category agnostic, who partner on research, uncover unmet needs while looking for gaps with the guest.  

When relationships, new item launches or promotional events breakdown, both retailer and manufacturer must ask two questions:

–     “Why didn’t our plan work?”

–    “How was the shopper negatively affected?”

Our esteemed retail panel was very clear about expectations. They are looking for real innovation, emerging insights, a peak around the corner (or what’s next?), higher level joint business planning addressing new ideas and ruthless trust from their manufacturer partners.

Let the seller beware!

Dan Mack is founder of the Mack Elevation Forum and a partner in The Swanson Group. For more insights on Dan Mack and the Elevation Forum go to To learn about his first book Dark Horse: How Challenger Companies Rise to Prominence visit


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Study: Medicaid patients use ER 40% more often than uninsured

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Adults who are covered by Medicaid use emergency rooms 40% more than those in similar circumstances who do not have health insurance, according to a new study co-authored by an MIT economist that sheds empirical light on the inner workings of health care in the United States.

The study takes advantage of Oregon’s recent use of a lottery to assign access to Medicaid, the government-backed healthcare plan for low-income Americans, to certain uninsured adults. The research examines emergency room records for roughly 25,000 people for a period of 18 months.

"When you cover the uninsured, emergency room use goes up by a large magnitude," said Amy Finkelstein, the Ford Professor of Economics at MIT and a principal investigator of the study, along with Katherine Baicker, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The study, which was published Thursday in the journal Science, also documented that having Medicaid consistently increases visits to the emergency room across a range of demographic groups, types of visits and medical conditions, including types of conditions that may be most readily treatable in primary-care situations.

"In no case were we able to find any subpopulations, or type of conditions, for which Medicaid caused a significant decrease in emergency department use," Finkelstein said. "Although one always needs to be careful generalizing to other settings, these results suggest that other Medicaid expansions are unlikely to decrease emergency room use."

With the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Medicaid is expanding in many states to cover a population similar to the one that gained Medicaid through Oregon’s lottery. The results in this paper, however, suggest nuances to the current debates over the expansion of Medicaid, medical costs and the role of emergency rooms in providing care.

On one level, the results accord with a traditional economics framework suggesting that insurance, by lowering out-of-pocket costs, would increase the use of medical care. Or, as Finkelstein observed, "If we’ve lowered the price of the emergency department, we would expect people to use it more."

However, Medicaid also lowers the out-of-pocket costs of other types of health care, such as primary-care doctors. Some policy analysts have suggested that expanding Medicaid could reduce emergency department visits by the formerly uninsured by bringing them into more regular contact with primary-care doctors and clinics for preventive care. In theory, that could also reduce overall system costs, since urgent care is expensive.

Prior work by Finkelstein, Baicker and others on Oregon’s lottery applicants showed that people who obtain Medicaid increase their use of primary and preventive care. But, as Finkelstein pointed out, the net effect of Medicaid in the study was to also increase use of emergency services.





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Jan-06-2014 02:13 pm

Part of this study should have examined the number of primary care physicians and clinics that will accept state Medicaid. If more standard facilities would accept Medicaid patients, then the E.R. visits would decrease. Rural and suburban areas are most effected by the lack of Medicaid acceptance. At least, this is true for Maryland.



Zak introduces ‘Dragon’-themed dinnerware

BY Ryan Chavis

SPOKANE, Wash. — Kids (and kids at heart) have even more reason to be excited about the upcoming film "How to Train Your Dragon 2," thanks to Zak Designs. 

Zak, a leading manufacturer of licensed children’s dinnerware, introduced a line of meal-time products featuring characters from the movie and television show.

To help capture all the excitement of the film at the dinner table, fans can expect a three-section tray, flatware set and a 14.5-oz. tumbler. "How to Train Your Dragon 2" is set to be released in June.



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