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Walgreens’ A-Team transforming pharmacy retail on multiple fronts

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Man, you gotta love it when a plan comes together. In the past week, two stories broke that will help position Walgreens at the top of their A-game. One is the announcement of Walgreens’ entree into the loyalty card arena in just a few short weeks; the other is a huge technology news of Walgreens’ rollout of an electronic health record across the company’s entire platform. And all this not too long after announcing a blockbuster partnership with Alliance Boots and not too long before Walgreens rejoins the Express Scripts pharmacy network.

(THE NEWS: Study: Walgreens weeks away from entering the loyalty program market with Balance Rewards. For the full story, click here.)

It’s actually a little hard to discern which of these stories is the bigger deal. The card is about customer experience and engagement; the EHR is about expanding the role of community pharmacy.

And they’re both about improving health outcomes.

In addition to rewarding shopping behavior, Balance Rewards has a strong better-health component, such as its link to the company’s Walk with Walgreens program. And EHR will help Walgreens’ health practitioners better manage a patient’s condition.

These initiatives will enable two out of Walgreens’ five key strategic goals. How, you ask? Well, you’ll just have to tune into the next issue of DSN. DSN will examine every aspect of Walgreens in our exclusive, in-depth Sept. 24 report on the company and how it is transforming every aspect of its business — from the back end to the back bench; and from customers and patients to employers and payers. It’ll be a "can’t-miss" event.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below.

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NACDS beats drums for TSE 2013

BY Alaric DeArment

DENVER — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ 2012 Pharmacy & Technology Conference, which kicked off on Saturday at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver and runs through Tuesday night, will be the last.

But there’s no need to break out the tissues because it’s not going way. Instead, the retail pharmacy trade group is rolling the Pharmacy, Marketplace and Supply Chain & Logistics conferences into a single show starting next year.

Dubbed the Total Store Expo, the show will take place between Aug. 10-13, 2013 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas. The show will bring together an estimated 250 retail companies and 700 suppliers. “We took a look, and it became evident that this is a total store opportunity,” NACDS SVP member programs and services Jim Whitman said in a roundtable-style press conference with reporters Saturday afternoon. “The format is going to be a combination of the best of what we’ve seen from all the shows.”

The move to co-locate the three events under one roof is a reflection of the way more NACDS members — both chain and associate — are doing business these days. Frequently, merchandising, marketing and supply chain executives are meeting in concert to discuss not just buying product in retail, Whitman explained, but the much more difficult task of ensuring those goods actually make it to the store. In that sense, combining the three shows could enable vendors and retailers to speed up product introductions, and maximize sales opportunities.

One other benefit of the new show format, Whitman said, is that it would allow for greater interaction among buyers and vendors across categories. For example, people from the front-end could benefit from attending education sessions normally directed at pharmacists, or pharmacy buyers could learn about supply chain. “The pharmacy folks aren’t going to lose anything, and the marketplace people are going to gain something,” Whitman said. “We’re going to continue to strive to let people know they’re not losing anything.”

In recent years, the concept of health and wellness has started to percolate into and link every corner of the store, from the pharmacy and OTC sections to beauty and personal care products and consumables. “The profitability of health and wellness has spilled over into every category,” Whitman said.

So perhaps it’s only natural for suppliers and buyers from across a range of categories to gather under one roof. And that roof is going to be pretty big: Whitman said the show floor space would be about twice what it has been for the Pharmacy and Marketplace shows. In addition, according to NACDS, the TSE’s Meet the Market program will include 9,000 appointments with 270 buyers. This year’s Meet the Rx Market program included 1,501 appointments and 62 buyers, while the Meet the Market program at NACDS Marketplace in June included nearly 7,000 meetings and about 230 buyers.

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NACDS Pharmacy gets out of gates quickly with upbeat Meet the Rx Market program

BY Alaric DeArment

DENVER — Even before the exhibition hall was set up, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ 2012 Pharmacy & Technology Conference got a head start Saturday with a Meet the Rx Market program at the Hyatt Regency Denver.

The program brought together 144 suppliers and exhibitors and 62 buyers from retail chains for a total of 1,501 10-minute, speed dating-style meetings that took place over the course of seven hours. The idea is to give retailers ranging from smaller regional chains to those with stores in every state the chance to learn about new vendors and products.

“For the smaller and mid-sized guys, this is a great opportunity,” NACDS VP conference services Larry Lotridge told Drug Store News.

The precisely timed meetings are set up based on a sophisticated computer modeling system, as well as input from retailers and vendors. The result is something like the Meet the Market forum that takes place at the NACDS Marketplace show, albeit it on a smaller scale and with a different product category. “We are constantly tweaking the system,” Lotridge said. Despite the effectiveness of the computer system, a human point of view is crucial as well. “A computer can only do so much,” Lotridge said. “You really need the retailers to be able to look at it and say, ‘This is appropriate for me.’”

But despite the short duration of the meetings, a lot comes out of them. Lotridge said many of them lead to further meetings on the show floor and even to vendors taking trips to retailers’ headquarters. “Overall, as we develop closer relationships with our retail audience, we accommodate their strategic initiatives,” NACDS manager of conference services Andrew Klapmust said.

Of course, some things will change next year as NACDS rolls the Pharmacy & Technology, Marketplace and Supply Chain & Logistics conferences into a single show, the Total Store Expo, set to take place in Las Vegas in August 2013. At that show, retailers will send in buyers from across categories, though officials from the organization have been careful to point out that the Meet the Market forums will not interfere with each other and will also create additional opportunities for interaction. “At the end of the day, exhibitors want to meet with retailers, and retailers want to learn about new products,” Lotridge said.
 

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