Nacds Regional Chain Conference By Tony Burkardt
On- site Photo processing in the Drug arena disappearing outside the big box players
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Nacds Regional Chain Conference By Tony Burkardt
NACDS Regional Chain Conference by Tony Burkardt
This year about 400 people attended the NACDS (National Association of Chain Drug Stores)
Regional Chain Conference in Florida. Altogether, NACDS members represent 35,000 drug store
locations, but this conference was designed as a working meeting to address the unique challenges
facing senior retail executives who operate drug store chains with fewer than 250 outlets. As might
be expected, the focus of the conference and many speakers was on health and pharmacy department
issues, the core business of drug stores.
Our primary interest was to gain some insight about the mindset of these executives about onsite
digital imaging in the regional drug channel. However, since most of the attendees were top
executives and the Photo Category was not covered in the program, it was difficult to get many
details about digital imaging. Still, we went because we reasoned that Photo occupies a lot of space
in a drugstore why wouldn’t these executives discuss the industry trends and opportunities facing the
drug channel TODAY.
From my lengthy experience developing photo services for large retailers, I am convinced that if
you do not have top-down commitment to the photo program, nothing will flourish at the store level.
I believe this is the reason why onsite digital imaging is disappearing in these smaller drug chains.
Let’s look at three topics that were of concern to the attendees. 1. With the increase in labor issues
and law suits, speaker Deborah Kelly focused on the latest landmines regarding labor laws, offering
practical advice along with a list of do’s and don’ts. Changing labor laws are obviously a major
ongoing concern, and time-consuming problem at the store level. Store managers need to be trained
and kept up to date on the day to day administrative duties of protecting their company and the
employees. 2. An emerging topic that is becoming increasingly important today is how to leverage
social media. Pete Blackshaw spoke about the key steps needed to participate Photo Imaging News
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in this developing marketing arena, one that top executives must understand to prepare appropriate
strategies. 3. The last critical area, at least from my prospective, is the Front End of the store, which
covers everything but drugs and Pharmacy, and is where Photo is positioned. Ellen Santoro covered
how the Front End has become more important than ever to the overall sales and profit of drugstores.
She explored recent trends across the key front-end categories, and what you need to know to stay
relevant in this critical segment. However, I was disappointed that even though Photo is included in
the front-end category, she did not mention it. My conclusion: Photo is no longer considered to be a
key category that warrants discussion at industry conferences.
So, I’m not surprised that top drugstore chain executives are focusing their attention on other
categories, and as a consequence onsite digital imaging is dying in this drug channel. With a
traditional emphasis on prints, with ever-declining volumes, it seems that no one is informing this
industry segment about the relevance of onsite digital imaging to bringing customers to stores and the
very significant profit opportunities offered by personalized photo products. Studying photo imaging
industry statistics and trends, I can easily conclude that the outlook is improving significantly and
consumers are trending back to retail. Then, I am puzzled: are the top executives of these chains
unaware of these changes or have they made irreversible decisions to no longer invest in this once-
highly-profitable channel? As a regular reader of the trade magazines and newsletters aimed at these
executive, e.g. Mass Market Retailer (MMR), the global newspaper for supermarket, drug, and
discount chains, and Drug Chain Review, I can attest to a lack of editorial coverage of Photo.
Still, after obtaining a better perspective on the pressing issues on top executives from this
conference, I can now understand that Photo is perceived as nothing more than another headache
with no prescription or healing process in sight. Photo industry spokespeople and manufacturers must
learn how to blend into the retailer’s core business. It’s not merely about “photo”, it’s about building
traffic and increasing sales and profits, and more importantly how digital imaging can help
drugstores become a more frequent “destination.” Salespeople must become consultants, willing to
provide “industry” information and introduce “partners” who can educate top executives about the
exciting opportunities we offer.
We need to expand our perspective beyond our own products, to really understand what “category
management”, a concept to which all retailers can relate, encompasses. We need to get more
involved in learning our customers’ business principles, practices, and philosophies so that we can
demonstrate how onsite digital imaging can become a major contributor to the “Big Picture.” Our
goal - to keep our industry from losing more retail exposure - should be to stop talking to ourselves,
regroup, partner with complementary companies that are passionate about our industry, and create a
solution-oriented consulting group that can bring digital imaging back into the limelight. I strongly
believe that onsite digital imaging should not be classified as a “standalone” category, it must be
viewed as a value-added service that increases store traffic and the average dollar per transaction.
The smaller drug chains were once part of the backbone of our industry, maintaining the
personalized service and superior quality which our industry desperately needs today. It will be a sad
day if we lose the regional retail chains selling our products/services and promoting them on a local
level and must rely solely on largest national chains for mass-consumer education and advertising.
For both the regional drugstores and the industry,