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Editor‘s note: A brave new world

BY Seth Mendelson

This year could be the most important year for retail since, well, since all the way back in 2017.

At the outset, it is certainly shaping up that way, especially with a host of major retailers looking to do all they can to compete with Amazon and its growing online presence, not to mention taking a few points away from each other.

Let’s just take a look at some of the recent events. As we discuss in our cover story this month, CVS Health is buying Aetna to become a larger player in the healthcare market. Target is buying Shipt, a same-day delivery service that company officials believe will give them a chance to better compete online, for a cool $550 million. Walmart is buying just about everything in sight to give the company all the ammunition possible to compete digitally.

Expect more of the same this year.

In fact, the merger/acquisition activity should kick up a bit in 2018 as the larger merchants continue to try to solidify their online presence with consumers, and some other players, including Kroger, Macy’s, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Toys ‘R Us, seek ways to stay relevant in this changing world of retail.

Why now? Several reasons, say the experts. One is that as the fear of Amazon taking over all of retail subsides and the reality that it is most definitely a major force in the industry takes hold, other retailers are beginning to make sensible and logical moves to compete. The second, some say, is that the money is available for retailers to make these moves, which means investors are willing to bet that certain smart, well-thought out moves will pay off for these retailers over both the short and long terms.

The road map exists. When Walmart was gobbling up market share in the mass and food retail segments in the 1990s and many industry observers feared the sky was falling for the rest of the industry, sensible operators took the right steps to establish their own niches in the marketplace. The result was mass casualties among the merchants who did not change, and a robust retail environment for those who did.

It is going to happen again, and the next 12 months will go a long way in determining which retailers have the foresight — and the intestinal fortitude — to take the right steps to survive in a new age of retailing.

Walmart, CVS and, perhaps, Target are taking steps to ensure not only their basic survival but their long-term success. Mistakes will happen and some money will be lost, but doing nothing is no longer an alternative in retail merchandising and marketing. 

Yes, 2018 has all the makings of being a crucial year for retail. But it will not be any more crucial than 2017 was or 2019 will be. Welcome to a brave new world. Now go out and conquer it.

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Enabling patient-facing care: Pharmacists at the top of their licenses

BY David Orgel

Pharmacists still are waiting for the handcuffs to come off. That’s the consensus of industry leaders who are frustrated with the challenges of getting reimbursements for a wider range of services these professionals can perform. It’s a topic at the center of enabling patient care in community-based pharmacy.

“We talk about pharmacists being able to practice at the top of their license,” said CVS Health executive vice president of retail pharmacy and supply chain Kevin Hourican.

“What’s disappointing is that the regulations sometimes significantly lag [with] what the customers actually want.”

He pointed to point-of-care testing as a key area where pharmacists could rise to their full potential.

“A patient could come to a 24-hour pharmacy when a doctor isn’t available to have tests completed. There would be prescriber authority to be able to write for antibiotics, for example, for a positive strep throat test.”

Further, pharmacists could play bigger roles in helping patients determine if they need cholesterol medications, or hypertension medications, he said.

“We believe the pharmacist can play an even more important role in this space,” he said, especially given the convenient locations for patients.

Hourican emphasized that the industry is collaborating to make progress on this goal.

“We are working with many industry partners and NACDS to help advance forward improvements to select regulations, so we can serve the communities and our patients more appropriately.”

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Upping your inventory protection game

BY Del Williams
For retailers of such high-end consumer electronics as smartphones, tablets, e-readers, drones, digital cameras and fitness watches, the customer’s retail experience can be just as important as loss prevention. Often the look, feel and performance of a product on display in a store, including the ability to interact and fully experience features, such as menus and apps, can be crucial to a customer’s purchasing decision. 
 
Yet, retailers cannot let expensive merchandise walk out the door due to shoplifting or employee theft. Electronic loss prevention devices, which typically involve an alarm console, sensors and related accessories, are the ideal way to display this type of merchandise.
 
As an increasing number of new consumer electronics products hits the market, and retailers face competitive pressure to reduce costs and staffing, a greater array of options is further improving this category’s appeal in the industry.
 
“Customers need to interact with our latest smartphones to see what has changed and how the devices perform,” said Bill Jones, an AT&T regional director of asset protection. “But it is a balancing act between customer-product interaction and theft deterrence.”
 
According to Jones, who evaluates loss prevention system cost and effectiveness, in today’s competitive retail environment, how a product looks and feels when displayed can affect a retailer’s bottom line just as much as theft prevention.
 
“We want the focus to be on the product, rather than on the power and security cords,” Jones said.
 
Improving product presentation

Any electronic loss prevention device — whether it be an alarm console, sensor, pedestal stand, grippers, tethering or charging cable — should not overshadow the product itself or be cumbersome or difficult to maintain by employees. To meet this need, innovators offer a variety of loss prevention devices that secure electronic products without the mess and clutter.[pb]
 
A growing number of retailers are turning to such electronic merchandise display security systems as the Vantage II by Se-Kure Controls, a Franklin Park, Ill.-based manufacturer of retail product security devices. While most systems require separate wires for security and charging the electronic device it protects, this system utilizes a single wire to provide both security and power.  
 
“One of the things that drew us to our display security system is how nice, clean and modern it looked to have the one cord,” said Kevin Lasky, project manager at Austin, Texas-based Arch Telecom, a wireless retailer with 140 locations in 13 states. “There is no separate cable running up the side of the pedestal or coming out of the display to charge the phone. That was important to us.”
 
To facilitate customer-product interaction in stores, retailers can pair each smartphone with a retractable cord, so it can be pulled off its pedestal and easily viewed several feet away. When the shopper returns the phone to the pedestal, the cord retracts and a magnet enables ideal product positioning.
 
AT&T’s Jones said he also is impressed with the simplified, cleaner look of the single-cord approach. It also simplifies removal of electronic products to a more secure location each evening to prevent “smash and grab” robbery attempts.
 
“At the end of each day, we put all our devices in an inventory room, and then each morning we put them back on the display counters,” Jones said. “Having just one cord helps us close down and set back up faster.” According to Jones, Se-Kure Controls’ systems also are very sturdy and durable. He estimates that not having to repair or replace such items as the alarm box or power/security cords often can lead to significant savings annually. “In an organization as big as ours, it can add up to millions of dollars over time,” Jones said. 
 
For more info, visit se-kure.com.
 
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