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Mack Elevation Forum aims to align boardrooms

BY Rob Eder

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. —You can say that for some members of the industry, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Annual Meeting came a day early this year.

Though not an official part of the NACDS schedule, for a small group of supplier executives the action really began at The Mack Elevation Forum at the West Palm Beach Marriott on April 23. The share group, which merged with the Swanson Group last November—organized and coordinated by Dan Mack, the former Dentek marketing executive—brings together executives from noncompeting, generally smaller to mid-sized companies to examine critical business issues with the ultimate goal of enabling participants to align their sales and marketing strategies with the broader vision of the retailers they do business with; something Mack calls “boardroom-to-boardroom alignment.”

Costco VP pharmacy Vic Curtis served as a special keynote speaker for the group, setting the table with an insider’s view of how to do business with Costco.

Topics during the discussions included learning how to thrive in a world of emerging private-label growth and how a branded manufacturer can develop best practices for playing on both sides of the equation—that is, blending a branded and a retail-brand position.

“A blended branded and retailer brand strategy provides suppliers a differentiated and synergistic position with their retail partners,” noted Swanson Group principal Rich Swanson, who helped co-moderate the discussion, calling on his three decades of consumer packaged goods experience to help move the dialogue along. “The winners are providing broad brand solutions to the category—including both branded and retailer brands.”

“You must learn to tolerate failure when you play in the private-label arena,” added Vic Mazzacone, CEO for the retail division of Drive Medical. “A retailer brand position creates moments in which you could lose your position due to the bidding process. You have to be willing to [take a] risk to create a winning partnership.”

Coming back to the overarching theme of aligning the supplier’s objectives with the retailer’s boardroom vision, Elevation Forum founder and Swanson Group VP Dan Mack offered: “Suppliers must ensure full corporate alignment prior to moving forward with a branded/retailer brand strategy. This includes ensuring internal alignment with operations, management and marketing. Winning companies bring forward their assets, differentiated capabilities and emerging insights—not just their products.”

Microlife director of marketing Mark Boufford agreed. “Better positioning doesn’t just focus on product improvements; it includes packaging innovations, in-store experience and positioning advancements,” he said.

Other participants included David Kobel of Celsius, Darrick Blinoff of Traditional Medicinals, Bruce Montgomery of Fleet Labs, Jim Doyle of Sunstar Americas, Geoff Belz of Gojo Industries, Ron Yutrzenka of U.S. Nutrition, Mike Barna of First Boston Pharma and Mike Matulis of Pacific World.

The next Mack Elevation Forum is scheduled to coincide with NACDS Marketplace in San Diego in June.

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Retail clinics: Improved care at a lower cost

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Retail clinics. Save. Money. Without regard to who’s footing the bill exactly — healthcare payer or Jane Patient — retail clinics not only represent a significant cost savings across the board, but by siphoning nonemergency-yet-still-urgent cases out of the emergency rooms and doctors’ offices, retail clinics also can contribute to improved care across the healthcare continuum.

(THE NEWS: Study: Retail clinics save nonemergency patients money. For the full story, click here)

All told there were 119.2 million total ER visits in 2006, up 8.2% as compared with 2004, according to ACEP. Extrapolate that figure with WellPoint’s finding that 19.4% of those visits may be for nonemergencies across the entire nation, and the fuzzy math equates to an approximate 23.1 million non-emergency patients presenting across some 3,833 ERs. For whoever is paying for the cost of care, that’s an expenditure totaling $10.2 billion if every case were to present at an ER; as compared to $1.2 billion if every case were to present at a retail clinic. That’s the cost savings piece.

But cost savings aren’t the only benefit retail clinics afford the overall healthcare system —  there’s a general improvement in care. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, average waiting times for patients triaged with non-emergency ailments at emergency departments range between one and two hours, but only when the ER isn’t crowded. That’s like saying that bee stings don’t hurt, you know, except when they do.

Let’s face it, in a nation of 309 million and counting, there are simply not enough points of care, be it for an emergency or nonemergency situation. Taking nonemergency visits out of emergency rooms would likely improve the efficiency of care for more critical patients, as well as the experience of care for noncritical patients. That’s the improved care piece.

Improved care at a lower cost, that’s what retail clinics bring to the table.

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Tide brings Loads of Hope to Dollar General

BY Allison Cerra

NASHVILLE Tide brought its mobile laundromat to a local Dollar General to benefit victims of the recent floods.

Tide’s Loads of Hope program visited a Nashville Dollar General May 12 to provide customers in the area with clean laundry. One truck and a fleet of vans house more than 32 energy-efficient washers and dryers that are capable of cleaning over 300 loads of laundry every day. Tide washs, dries and folds the clothes for these families for free.

The Loads of Hope program also benefited victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, in addition to other natural disasters.

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