Editor’s note: Game over for Toys ‘R’ Us
Lack of investments stalled steady growth
What killed Toys “R” Us?
If you think it was a combination of intense competition from other traditional retailers and online operations like Amazon, you are only half right — if that.
The rest of the load falls squarely on the private equity companies that bought Toys “R” Us over a decade ago and saddled the company with more than $5 billion in debt. That is billions with a capital B, and it was enough to prevent the chain, which was already under intense pressure from Wall Street for some previous serious missteps, to keep pace with its competition.
In case I am not totally clear here, let me put it another way. Toys “R” Us will go down in retail business history as a poster child for just how badly private equity operators can ruin a business — a venture so big that at one point some said it was simply too large to fail. By the way, that says a lot, because private equity does not have a very good record when it comes to the retail industry.
The problem with private equity money is that it comes with a very crucial string attached: make lots of money and do it quickly. The folks that got involved with Toys “R” Us and some other retailers have failed to see that retail requires constant investments in infrastructure, marketing, assortment and advertising. Starting a new venture a few billion or more in the hole caused the leadership to forgo some of these necessary investments in hopes of returning dividends to the investors. Just a wild guess here, but I do not think those investors in Toys “R” Us are very happy right about now.
Consumers noticed the lack of attention pretty quickly. I know that I did. Organized clean stores with the right assortment of products turned into a maze of junk on messy shelves, and not enough in-store help at crucial times of the year. Shoppers left in a hurry, most to chains like Walmart and Target and, of course, Amazon, which offered more basic assortments but in much neater surroundings and often at lower prices.
Many people will say that the chain had it coming to it. The bottom line is that Toys “R” Us did a great job of putting just about everyone else out of the retail toy business over the last 30-plus years. It did so at one time by using devastating firepower — a lethal mix of great prices, broad assortment and strong advertising — to make toy retailing virtually impossible to be profitable for other retailers.
The lesson, of course, is that to be successful retail needs to be run by professional merchants, those individuals who know that this is not a sprint, but a marathon. And private equity does not normally work very well with retailers. Just ask the folks at Toys “R” Us.
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How ECRM stays relevant at 25
For more than 25 years, ECRM has been able to bring suppliers and retailers together in highly productive, category-relevant venues to help with their business needs and growth plans. For those that have attended an ECRM event in the past, the infamous luggage tag and “three minutes” door knock are all too familiar branding moments.
Just as retailers and suppliers alike have evolved over the years, so has ECRM. It has worked to emphasize business services focused on category management support to accompany growing sales, increasing productivity and saving time and money for busy and often overworked merchant teams.
One significant step taken by ECRM recently was acquiring product discovery platform RangeMe. Currently, more than 30 large national retailers are using RangeMe to help their merchant teams in the product discovery process, offering them access to retail-ready suppliers. New suppliers looking to gain retail distribution can use the platform to submit their products directly to any of these retailers, whose merchants can review the standardized, vetted information.
With RangeMe, ECRM is becoming a key marketplace for new brands to onboard quickly with major retailers, enhancing speed to market, product discovery and, most importantly, business alignment to jumpstart sales growth for all parties.
Beyond RangeMe, ECRM is dedicated to working with merchants to develop and customize a purposeful plan to help clients accomplish white space co-creation, source new vendors and find the latest product innovations based on category growth needs.
When ECRM provides services to help merchant teams — many of which are stretched thin — save time and money, we think of ourselves as an extension of your team. Recently, a major retailer looking to discover new innovation called on ECRM to conduct a significant sourcing review, which led to the delivery of nearly 400 new potential suppliers with whom the retailer could create new assortments and source new capabilities to stay relevant.
For many years, ECRM’s services have also helped support retailers with their category planning and review processes. We have helped provide the resources, tools and infrastructure to support promotional planning, line reviews and seasonal planning programs across all product categories. These customized programs have brought the retail community significant cost savings, productivity enhancements and streamlined merchandising operations. In the past year, we have conducted more than 80 of these programs, significantly reducing the time it would take to implement these efforts if they were undertaken by the retailer’s team alone.
Also in the past year, ECRM has provided the retail industry with more than 280,000 meetings between retailers and suppliers. Our footprint, which covers national and regional retailers in all major CPG categories — including health and beauty care, consumables and general merchandise — is vast, particularly with regard to the information exchange, industry conversations and interactions that we facilitate across the mass market. For challenger brands — the bright spot in industry growth over the past several years — ECRM has always been the ideal place to gain a foothold in the retail space.
Wayne Bennett is senior vice president of retail for ECRM.
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Real-time interaction with patient data to enable robust pharmacy-patient coherence
Over 12.5 million people misused prescription opioids in 2015. Pharmacists have a great responsibility to track and manage the use of controlled substances and other drugs of interest not only for the betterment of the industry but for the good of humanity. Non-adherence also remains a huge burden of the healthcare system. Half of all patients with chronic diseases don’t take their medications as prescribed.
Unfortunately, solutions to these challenges have remained elusive due to the disjointedness of patient prescription data. For pharmacists, data coordination remains a major industry challenge, as does the incongruence among various states’ prescription drug monitoring programs. It remains to be seen if, when, and how a national database of drug use is implemented across the U.S. But it’s time for pharmacists to consider both the deep responsibility for and operational benefits of transmitting patient dispensing data to a contributory database. After all, we can wait for the government to pass legislation based on their perspective, or each of us in the industry can take on the challenge to improve patient care and our positions within the healthcare system.
To improve patient engagement, pharmacists require meaningful and actionable data, insights and analytics. To get the full picture of who’s taking what and to what degree of adherence, pharmacists need to coordinate care through information sharing via a patient platform concept. Using the same technology infrastructure that exists for prescriber compliance and leveraging the same technology platform benefiting the insurance and banking industries today, patient transaction data would be transmitted to a protected system—with patient engagement as the ultimate goal.
From the standpoint of monitoring controlled substances, a pharmacist would be able to receive more advanced opioid scoring and alerts, including morphine equivalency. If a patient filled a prescription a few days before, at a pharmacy a few blocks away, the pharmacist would know it. That could result in the pharmacist having a meaningful engagement with patients to help them with their situation.
Regarding patient adherence to other types of medications, the system would provide adherence score models to let pharmacists know if a particular patient is in need of further education or materials about the regimen to help produce better outcomes. Again, the pharmacist is able to take an active role using actionable information to educate the patient.
Immunization opportunities would also be flagged via immunization registry access. A pharmacist could note, for example, if the patient in front of him was a candidate for the shingles vaccine, and even perform the immunization right in the pharmacy for an additional revenue stream.
Additionally, universal patient identification would provide another layer of security for prescribing, offering patient and demographic data to confirm the identity of each customer. Supporting the use of a universal patient identifier, this platform would easily access other systems within healthcare, such as EHRs, lab systems, and hospital systems, as needed.
Operational benefits of amassing this data would be significant. For example, a pharmacy patient platform would enable basic functionality for states’ Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP) compliance. Looking up controlled substance data for the state is often a clunky, time-intensive process. This system would query that information automatically for state reporting, creating a log for future access needs, such as requests from state regulatory authorities, and freeing up valuable staff resources for more time with customers.
The future of pharmacy is just a step away. Existing infrastructure is able to yield real-time interaction with the shared patient data to deliver solutions for a more streamlined, effective delivery of services. Informed providers and engaged patients result in better care and better outcomes: the possibilities are endless.
Brian Eidex is the current director of pharmacy at LexisNexis Risk Solutions Health Care, who holds 20 years of hands-on leadership experience in product management, sales and software development. His responsibilities with the company include generating new revenue from new and existing clients through client consultation and driving product management. LexisNexis prides itself on being able to use the power of data and advanced analytics to help customers make timelier decisions about hidden risks and opportunities by providing insights to people, the industry and society.
There is a critical need to allow patients to provide feedback regarding their adherence to medication therapy and believe it or not, there is already an open platform that is available. It's a question of whether Pharma, as well as the healthcare industry, is ready to accept the fact that without patient feedback, there's no way one can measure any quality measures or patient compliance.