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Retail pharmacy industry loses two longtime contributors: Bolger was father of NACDS Marketplace

BY DSN STAFF

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Drug Store News in the wake of his passing Oct. 8. Bolger was 85 years old.—In life and in business there are essentially two kinds of people: those who work hard behind the scenes, who leverage relationships and pull people and resources together to make things happen, and those who take credit for it. Robert J. Bolger was the kind of guy that made things happen, friends and colleagues of the former National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and chief executive officer told

Bolger, who joined NACDS in 1962, was elected the organization’s first president and chief executive in 1967, a post he served with distinction for some 20 years. At a time when powerful regional chains were morphing into national players, Bolger convened office when NACDS’ board of advisors was made up of executives named for the companies they led—it was a different era. Bolger is routinely credited as the man that brought the industry into the modern era.

“Bob was involved in the direction of NACDS for 25 years—that says a lot right there,” noted NACDS senior vice president of member programs and services Jim Whitman. Bolger played an integral role not just in the evolution of the industry but also in the evolution of the trade association business, Whitman told Drug Store News.

“Bob understood that the role of a trade association was to serve its members—first and foremost,” Whitman explained. “He understood that the members are the No. 1 priority.”

Bolger also understood some other key fundamentals as it relates to the trade association management business in general, and drug store retailing, in particular. It was under Bolger that NACDS held its first-ever Marketplace meeting in 1987.

Bolger is also responsible for relocating NACDS to Alexandria in 1980, purchasing the first of the buildings that comprise its current office campus along the banks of the Potomac. “Bob understood the importance to NACDS members of having a centrally located headquarters based in the Capitol,” Whitman added.

Bolger also understood the importance of legislative and government affairs; under Bolger NACDS expanded government affairs activities to focus on challenges at the state level.

More than anything else, perhaps, Bolger is remembered as a visionary and a consensus builder, who truly understood how to balance the needs of NACDS members—all of them; big and small, retailer and supplier.

“His keen recognition of the importance of bringing chains and suppliers together manifested itself, among other ways, in the creation of NACDS Marketplace,” noted NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson. “He also appreciated the changing composition of regional and national chain members, as well as the increasing implications to the membership of government programs. He saw the changes, foresaw their implications and knew how to work with other leaders through [NACDS] to address them.”

For Bolger—who began his career on the vendor side of the business, working for companies such as Kraft Foods, Smith Kline and French Laboratories—people came first; family, friends and colleagues. The decorated WWII veteran is survived by his wife of 53 years, Helen, as well as six children and eight grandchildren.

“It’s hard to mention Bob without Helen—in their time, they put a warm, human face on NACDS,” recalled Drug Store News vice president of customer development Jay Forbes, who was Drug Store News publisher during the Bolger years. “Bob was beloved by both the chain and supplier community and, in particular, we here at Drug Store News. He had an endearing personality and a gentle kindness. He was a man who, long after stepping down from his position of influence, was still sought out and warmly welcomed by virtually all in our industry.”

“Bob Bolger was a true gentleman and a great representative for our industry,” said Tom Ryan, chairman and chief executive officer of CVS Caremark. “Bob was a tireless advocate for chain pharmacy and he successfully guided our industry through many important changes. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bob’s family.”

“For me, personally, I can remember vividly my first attendance at NACDS Annual and how both he and Helen took the time and made the effort to make this “first timer” feel welcome. He made it his priority to make sure all members, both retailers and suppliers, ‘new’ and ‘old,’ felt they were key to the NACDS membership and key to the development of our industry over the long term. He worked non-stop to make sure all members saw the need to work together to build our industry,” said Vern Brunner of Brunner Marketing Solutions.

Kevin Tripp, executive vice president, president of Midwestern retail operations at Supervalu also recalled Bolger making him feel welcome at NACDS.

“Bob and Helen were among the first to reach out to Linda and I as new comers to NACDS,” he said. “Bob was an incredable role model for me and many others in our industry. The early work of Bob and Helen in establishing the culture and spirit of NACDS and its membership is still evident today.

“Bob Bolger was a heck of a salesman and a great ’closer’ with that big smile and twinkle in his eyes. He changed my life forever the first time we met,” said Ted Peterson, vice president of corporate development, Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in the name of Bob Bolger, to: Office of University Development, Villanova University, 800 Lancaster Avenue Villanova, PA 19085, or, alternatively, to LaSalle College High School, 8605 Cheltenham Avenue, Wyndmoor, Pa. 19038.

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Big crowds greet Tesco debut in Los Angeles

BY Doug Desjardins

LOS ANGELES Tesco wanted to make a good impression with its Nov. 8 Fresh & Easy debut in Los Angeles—a city where image is everything—and it did just that with a huge crowd jamming the aisles on opening day. Company officials reported similar turnouts at five other grand openings in Southern California and acknowledged customer response exceeded expectations.

More than one hundred people stood in line waiting to get into the Los Angeles store, with employees letting customers in as others left. And what they saw inside was a Tesco’s new hybrid combining elements of Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and 7-Eleven with some borrowings from its stores in Europe.

The basic concept of Fresh & Easy is a convenient shopping experience with an emphasis on healthy food and prepared meals from its Fresh & Easy private label. During a brief tour of the crowded store, Uwins explained that 50 percent of its food offerings are from its private label and that everything is created, cooked and packaged at its own state-of-the art “kitchen” in Southern California, including all of its prepared meals.

“We expected pre-prepared meals to be a massive hit here in the U.S.,” said Simon Uwins, Tesco’s chief marketing officer. “And so far, judging from the gaps we see in our refrigerated cases, they’re being cleared out rather fast.”

Several things set Fresh & Easy apart from other grocery retailers like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, the two it resembles the most. As Uwins mentioned, its Fresh & Easy private label has a 50 percent penetration rate and is represented in nearly every major food category including produce, meat, prepared meals, juice, coffee and mixed nuts.

And that reliance on private label allows it to offer some very competitive prices. Overall, Tesco says its prices are well below its main rivals at standard supermarkets. “We estimate our prices are about 20 percent lower than most supermarkets in the area,” said Uwins.

Its selection general merchandise, health and beauty and over-the-counter medications is small supermarket standards and runs more along the lines of a convenience store, though with a broader assortment. Basics like paper towels, diapers and pet food are stocked in a single aisle and its HBC and OTC products are located on one long shelf toward the back of the store capped with a section for greeting cards and magazines.

The rather small selection—and the complete lack of private label products—shows Fresh & Easy is primarily about the food, though that could change. “There are no private label products outside of food right now but that’s not to say that won’t change,” said Uwins.

The in-store signage is also unique and stamps Fresh & Easy as an organic and eco-friendly retailer, a good image for Southern California. Nearly every green, cardboard endcap features a message about its products including “all our bagged coffee is certified organic” and “our desserts contain 0 percent trans fats.” LED lighting is also used in the store, something else pointed out in its signs. The store doesn’t sell cigarettes but do carry a large selection of wine along with liquor and beer.

The checkout system is completely automated with 100 percent assisted self-checkout. Five checkout stands are small and designed for 15 items or less and the rest are a bit larger with scanners and self-pay systems (though there were plenty of employees nearby to help out people not familiar with the concept).

As expected, Tesco had some detractors at its grand openings in the form of labor unions and neighborhood groups. The Carpenters Local 1506 picketed in front of the Los Angeles store and handed out fliers claiming that a group hired by Tesco to help build its stores “does not meet area labor standards, including paying for health care and pension for all its employees on all projects.”

Tesco has a second wave of five openings planned for Las Vegas on Nov. 14 and plans to have stores open in the San Diego market in late November and Phoenix in early December. It expects to have 50 stores operating in California, Nevada and Arizona by next February.

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Costco announces October sales figures

BY Doug Desjardins

ISSAQUAH, Wash. Costco reported a big 9 percent jump in same store sales in October.

Leading the way was a 17 percent increase in sales at its international stores with U.S. sales jumping 7 percent. The increase beat the 5.7 percent average predicted by analysts for the month.

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