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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.