2020 Industry Issues Summit's final panel tackles successful retailer-supplier relationships

David Salazar
Managing Editor
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The 22nd DSN Industry Issues Summit closed out on Thursday with a hard-hitting panel discussion about what successful retailer-supplier partnerships look like in the midst of a pandemic. 


Moderated by Dan Mack, founder of Mack Elevation, the panel featured Sherri Keeth of Sam’s Club, Jacob Trombino of CVS Pharmacy, Mike Wolf of Walgreens, Karen Staniforth of Rite Aid, Dave Semersky of Target, Brian Owens of Geometry Global and Staci Cochran of Walmart. Participants tackled several big industry questions, including how their partnership expectations have changed, what has been learned during the pandemic, how healthy partnerships can manage alignment changes or conflict, and the future of health and wellness in retail, as well as the role that inclusive, diverse teams play in growing the industry. 

To watch the full panel, click here

Mack kicked off the event noting that a critical part of building a successful relationship between suppliers and retailers is getting on the same page. 

“From a supplier perspective, 50% of retailers believe that the biggest block to collaboration is a lack of trust, a lack of clear communication and a lack of data transparency,” he said, noting that often, suppliers believe their products are more differentiated than retailers do, and working together can help accentuate differentiating features of products and drive sales.  

“The companies that do get there understand it’s not about just their products, its about the ideas and the information and the deeper insights they bring to the relationship that set them apart,” he said.

Sam’s Club’s Keeth noted that the standout partners are those that know how to anticipate next steps — as well as being able to quickly adapt to any changes spurred by the unpredictability of the pandemic. 

“The ability to listen and understand the current needs and quickly respond — and if you’re really good as a leader or as a supplier partner, to anticipate the next need — is what separates good leaders and good suppliers in this new environment,” she said. 

Alignment starts with understanding that everyone is managing a lot right now, and using it as a platform to explore best ways to collaborate, Target’s Semersky said. “We’re literally in one another’s homes now and this requires us to give each other some grace. When kids and animals are running around in the background of meetings and technical glitches run through our discussions it creates a different working environment,” he said. “Successful partnerships have used this as a tool to acknowledge where each partner is out and then use it a as backdrop to create new thinking about how we drive our collective businesses.”

Thursday’s panel was the last of four events that comprised this year’s DSN Industry Issues Summit. The two earlier panels — “Fast-Tracking: Retail Pharmacy's Healthcare Role” and “Great Expectations: How Retail Pharmacy is Executing Patient Care" — as well as a keynote presentation from futurist, author and NYU Stern School of Business professor Amy Webb, are available on-demand here