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Marketplace big with little things done right

BY Rob Eder

Something pretty unique happened this year during Marketplace, and ironically, although it had very little to do with Marketplace, it really made me think how much the event has evolved over the last several years.

Two pitchers for the Los Angeles Angels combined to pitch a no-hitter—almost. You see, officially, it wasn’t a no-hitter because the Angels didn’t pitch the ninth inning; they never got a chance. The home team Dodgers, having scored the game’s only run off a fielding error in the fifth inning, didn’t require their last at-bats.

Record books aside, there was a much easier way to measure the Angels’ performance: “They didn’t have a best practice; they lost the game,” Mike Jones, Del Pharmaceuticals’ vice president of business development and trade relations, told the crowd gathered June 29 at the Outreach Business Development meeting.

As Jones noted, for product vendors that baseball game is a great example of how you can execute 99-out-of-100 things perfectly, but it only takes one screw-up, no matter how small, to derail you completely.

As rare a feat as the Angels’ failed no-no is, having happened only four other times in the modern history of Major League Baseball, up until more recently these kinds of results occurred much more frequently in drug store retailing, particularly, among new-item vendors with little experience in the channel. That’s what made me think about Marketplace. You see, much to the credit of the staff of NACDS—in particular, the work of Jim Whitman, Fitz Elder and Larry Lotridge, as well as the teams they lead in member services and programs, member relations and conference development—that kind of thing happens a lot less often these days.

For years Marketplace had a “build it and they will come” kind of appeal; if you were in the drug store business or wanted to conduct business in the drug store industry, you couldn’t afford not to come to Marketplace.

And it wasn’t just Marketplace either. You better believe, Drug Store News has attended many trade conferences through the years, some of which no longer exist for precisely those reasons, and many more that have waned in both relevance and importance. Yet today, perhaps even more than ever, you still can’t afford to not attend Marketplace.

Because it’s no longer just about the companies that come to Marketplace and the products they bring to the show. These days, it is as much about the programs NACDS has added that help ensure that those companies that make the trip to Marketplace reap the full value of their investment. And that is a credit to many people, both internal at NACDS and external, in terms of the members whose total buy-in has ensured the success of these new programs and activities. Unremarkably, it’s not any one big thing. It’s been a lot of little things.

It’s Meet the Market—now in its fifth year—which hosts some 10,000 face-to-face meetings before the show floor even opens.

It’s Meet the Retailer—now in its second year—which helps suppliers better understand what top chains expect from the companies they do business with.

It’s Successful Selling—also in its second year—which helps companies that are new to the channel understand how to come to market.

It’s the Supplier Advisory Board, and the ORBD subcommittee that has grown out of it, which drives so many of these programs. It’s the Mentoring Program that matches new vendors with more savvy vets whose firm belief that all boats rise with the tide helps ensure that first-timers have a productive experience and come back next time.

Like good baseball played well, it isn’t always the home run that wins the game. What has made NACDS successful, particularly as it relates to the rebirth of Marketplace, has been the culmination of so many little things done right. They are hitting a lot of singles, moving the runners around the bases and scoring runs. Old-timers call it “small ball.” But as much as the little things can win the game, it’s the little things that can also lose you the game. Just ask the Los Angeles Angels. It only took a single error to turn a no-hitter into a non-event.

Something pretty unique happened while we were at Marketplace this year. Two pitchers combined to pitch a no-hitter and their team still lost. That’s pretty rare in baseball. Thanks to the work of several key people in this industry, it’s becoming pretty rare at Marketplace, too.

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CVS Caremark to expand headquarters, add positions

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark has announced expansion plans for its headquarters over the next two years, a move that will help support the company’s continued growth and current hiring expectations of more than 200 new positions on its corporate campus.

The nature of the new jobs was not disclosed. In Rhode Island, the company currently employs 5,800 associates.

The plans are to build two new 150,000-square-foot office facilities in the Highland Corporate Park in Cumberland, R.I. The company has been based in Highland Corporate Park, which is jointly located in Cumberland and Woonsocket, since 1982. The company significantly expanded its customer support center facilities in 1988 and again in 2000.

“Our company was founded in Rhode Island more than 40 years ago and we feel fortunate to be able to continually reinvest in our home state,” stated Tom Ryan, chairman, president and chief executive officer. “As the largest company in Rhode Island we are looking to further expand our base of operations to support our continued growth and, as a result, increase our workforce over the next few years.”

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A&P announces fiscal Q1 improvements

BY Antoinette Alexander

MONTVALE, N.J. A&P, which operates 446 stores under such banners as A&P, Pathmark and Waldbaum’s, announced on Friday improved results for the first quarter as it nears the completion of the Pathmark integration.

“The first quarter of 2008 clearly demonstrates our continuing progression in operating improvement with the achievement of our fourth straight quarter of comparable store sales of over 3 percent,” stated Eric Claus, president and chief executive officer. “Further, Pathmark is already achieving positive results with comparable store sales climbing above 3 percent for the first time in many years. The company is also well underway with the completion of the Pathmark integration, as many of the planned milestones have been achieved. As of the end of the first quarter, our annualized run-rate of synergies is approximately $100 million.”

Sales for the quarter totaled $2.9 billion compared with $1.7 billion in the year-ago period. Same-store sales rose 3.2 percent, which excludes sales for Pathmark stores acquired in December 2007. Same-store sales for Pathmark, measured during the same period, rose 3.1 percent.

Net income from continuing operations was $3.8 million, with a net loss per diluted share of 48 cents after adjusting for non-operating income related to fair value adjustments. This compares with income of $61.4 million, or $1.45 per diluted share, in the year-ago period.

The company did not break out pharmacy sales results.

As previously reported by Drug Store News, the company announced during the quarter an integral step in its transformation—the conversion of the majority of SuperFresh stores in the Philadelphia market to the recently premiered Price Impact format under the Pathmark Sav-A-Center banner and a number of SuperFresh locations retaining the Fresh format with significant upgrades.

Also during the quarter, the supermarket chain completed the remodel of A&P Fresh in Holmdel, N.J., to the updated Fresh format and began remodeling additional stores. The company also premiered its Price Impact format in the Irvington and Edison Pathmark stores.

“The remainder of fiscal 2008 will be focused on progressing the company further toward operating profitability by: moving forward our operating and aggressive merchandising strategies; maintaining cost control and reduction disciplines throughout the business. Integral to our drive to profitability is the continued and ongoing execution of capital improvement projects all geared for maximum return, and particularly weighted to value propositions,” stated Claus.

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