Don’t call it the end of an era
Neither one of the co- recipients of this year’s Fantle Award would want you to call it the end of an era.
Tom Ryan only ever had one employer. From a staff pharmacist fresh out of the University of Rhode Island in 1974 to head of the company and one of only four people, including current president and CEO Larry Merlo, ever to lead CVS, Ryan’s story is unique — and not just because he was a CVS “lifer,” but also because of the indelible stamp his leadership has left on the company. As Ryan grew in his career, CVS grew from a feisty New England-based regional to a national drug store powerhouse to a multiheaded healthcare colossus.
For Sammons, the path that led her to become the top boss at Rite Aid was much different, having joined the company at a time of immense turmoil following a highly successful run at Fred Meyer, where she had been president and CEO. DSN has long believed that when the final story is written on Rite Aid, Sammons will be remembered as a valiant hero who helped bring the company back through the darkness to a new renaissance that continues to unfold, led by the team that she helped assemble. Rite Aid’s most recent numbers are showing signs of organic growth as a couple of its most important strategic commitments begin to bear fruit — most notably, its new Wellness+ loyalty program, which is quickly gaining traction.
And all of this says nothing about the important leadership Ryan and Sammons have provided for the entire industry, both as past chairmen of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and two of the industry’s most important everyday ambassadors. As Washington continues to address health reform, it is clear that community pharmacy will play a larger role in the delivery of patient care in America. Ryan and Sammons have played an indispensable role in this.
But this also is why neither one of them would want you to refer to this as the end of an era. For one thing, the good work continues for both of the companies, led today by the teams they helped assemble. At CVS, where the change perhaps seems more dramatic given Ryan’s long career at the company, including almost 20 years in the captain’s seat, Ryan’s successor is practically a “lifer” himself, having been with the company for more than 20 years, coming over in the 1990 acquisition of Peoples Drug. And like Ryan, Merlo already has left an indelible stamp on the chain, which is comprised to a large extent of the assorted retail banners CVS has acquired through the years — many of which Merlo led the integration of.
Ryan and Sammons are proud to tell you that the beat goes on at each of their respective companies. That’s the mark of a successful leader. Not only do they leave their companies in much better shape than when they found it, but they also leave their companies as each continues to grow, led by strong, capable new leaders that will continue the story. That it is not the “end of an era” for either company is as much a tribute to the lifetime of achievement these two important executives have had as any trophy ever could be.
Niche cards chart differentiation in aisles
The supplier in the greeting card aisle may not be enough to capture consumer interest. While smaller, niche players make up less than 5% of category sales, according to one manufacturer, those companies can offer a point of differentiation to retailers that larger manufacturers can’t provide.
Marc Trobman, VP new business development for Avanti Press, compared adding niche publishers to the card aisle with augmenting beers from the two big brewers with craft beers — a strategy most retailers have taken. “People love the beers, but they’re hard to find. When you find them, it raises the credibility of the whole department,” he said. Trobman said his company has had strong success with programs in Meijer, Wegmans and Sprouts Farmers Market.
Trobman also added that smaller, more nimble companies are able to quickly respond to the needs of their customers. Avanti, for example, heavily focuses on humor, the fastest-growing segment of the market. Other key trends in the category are eco-friendly materials, inspirational cards, pets and animal prints.
Cards that answer those needs move quickly. “Retailers say our turns are higher and we produce more revenue per pocket per day, so that’s where we shine with our accounts,” said Bob Gall, president of Blue Mountain Arts, a brand with limited SKUs that require only 8 ft. of shelf space.
Value pricing is another niche that smaller companies are filling — which is particularly important since greeting card prices have continued to climb. The average card price is between $2 and $4, according to the Greeting Card Manufacturers Association.
Retailers can discount Gallant Greetings’ line up to 50% off, and Designs for Better Giving, a multicultural card and gift manufacturer, keeps price points down by staying away from expensive embellishments. “We’ve kept our price point solidly in the $2 to $2.50 range, but we still do everything a large company does,” said Richard Todd, president of Designs for Better Giving. “We even have in-house fulfillment people.”
Designs for Better Giving, which offers a full line of multicultural products — from cards targeted to African-Americans to ones written in Russian and Japanese — offers a range from 48- to 102-pocket programs, as well as a 12-pocket counter display.
ReportersNotebook — General Merchandise, 5/30/11
SUPPLIER NEWS — Ziploc has launched its VersaGlass products, which are designed to go from the fridge to the microwave or oven — at temperatures of up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit — and straight to the dinner table, the company said. The containers also are dishwasher-safe and available in six sizes, ranging from $4.19 to $8.99, or in a variety pack of three containers for $17.99.
Cottonelle is bringing back its Get Fresh With a Friend program that allows consumers to get a free tub of the brand’s flushable moist wipes and send one to a friend or family member. Consumers that visit GetFreshWithAFriend.com can receive a coupon for a free One Touch dispensing tub of Cottonelle flushable moist wipes with a Cottonelle Easy Reach hanger for themselves and a friend by providing their mailing address and their friend’s email address. A 42-count tub of flushable moist wipes carries a suggested retail price of $2.89.
MidWest is expanding its accessories lineup with new MidWest Garden Markers. The 10-in. high steel wire constructions with copper marker identification panels are available in packaged sets of six markers with a black waterproof marker pencil, letting garden enthusiasts easily identify what is growing in their garden and where.