Inside This Issue - News
Griffin puts NACDS in perspective
April 22nd, 2013
SIOUX FALLS, N.D. – As the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ longest-serving board member, Lewis Drug chief executive officer Mark Griffin has seen a lot of change.
First elected to the board in 1987, Griffin, who just recently passed the longevity record held by former CVS Caremark president, chief executive officer and chairman Tom Ryan, says one of the biggest changes in the quarter century that he has been involved with NACDS has been the transition from an industry centered around self-made entrepreneurs to one increasingly dominated by corporations.
“In the beginning there were quite a few owner-operators of large chains,” he recalls. “There were some very impressive icons of the industry then.”
And while the camaraderie among board members that was so prevalent in those days has not diminished very much, Griffin says that the chain drug business definitely has more of a corporate feel to it these days.
Longtime board members with massive drug store empires made newcomers like Griffin feel that they were welcome in the association and helped remove the mystique from the industry, he says.
“I remember the first time I met Henry Panasci [the founder and former head of what was then Fay’s Drugs in upstate New York],” Griffin recalls. “He spent some time with me and showed me the ropes. I was fairly young and inexperienced, and he helped humanize the business for me.”
Griffin says that experience left him with an understanding that, despite the size of a person’s company, NACDS board members were able to see the bigger picture — what was good for one company was usually good for all.
He says he has never forgotten that lesson and has tried to pass on what he has learned over the last quarter century to some of the associations’ newer members.
“The people in the industry change so fast now,” Griffin comments. “There was a phase when relationships developed and for eight to 10 years they were fairly stable. Once buyouts began, many of those relationships dissolved.”
"The industry has changed, and NACDS has had to change with it."
And while new relationships have been created in the wake of the industry’s shake-up as a result of consolidation, not all of them are as strong as those that were formed in the earlier years of his tenure.
The era of consolidation that marked the early part of this century was a period of particular note to Griffin, since it was during his time as the board’s chairman.
“The year and a half in which I was chairman was not only a time when consolidation was beginning but also when the impact of PBMs was just starting to be felt,” he recalls. “Those two issues have not gone away and continue to shape the way the industry operates.”
As for NACDS itself, in many ways the association of today bears only a slight resemblance to the NACDS of the mid-1980s. “The industry has changed, and NACDS has had to change with it,” Griffin says. “Politics play a huge part now and are the driving force behind our mission.”
And gone are the days when NACDS was the only association competing for retailers’ and suppliers’ time, he adds.
As a result, the association has had to rethink the way it holds trade shows. Two years ago the board and members of the NACDS staff decided to join the association’s Marketplace Conference, Pharmacy and Technology Conference, and Supply Chain and Logistics Conference into a megashow called Total Store Expo (TSE).
Scheduled for August, TSE is the natural evolution of NACDS’ trade shows and conferences, Griffin says. “NACDS has competition like never before,” he notes. “The marketplace has evolved, and the communication between suppliers and retailers has evolved. By bundling the opportunities presented at these three meetings, we will get a positive result for all of them.”
Those two factors — bringing people together and providing them with a forum to discuss the issues and problems they all face — have always been what NACDS and its board are about, Griffin says.
And that has also led to other positives, he quickly notes. “The relationships on the board mean a lot to me,” he says. “It’s not just business. It’s friendship. I’ve developed some very good friendships — friendships that will last for the rest of my life.”