The first issue of Chain Drug Review of the new year has been reserved traditionally for the announcement of the publication’s outstanding retail performers of the previous 12 months. This issue is no ­exception.

Chain Drug Review, chain drug retailing, David Pinto, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Tony Civello, Kerr Drug, chain drug community, drug chain, Steve Lubin, John Standley, Ken Martindale, Frank Vitrano, Retailers of the Year, Alliance Boots, AmerisourceBergen, Mark Wagner, health care retailer, Ronald L. Ziegler Lifetime Achievement Award, mass retailing

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Inside This Issue - Opinion

Outstanding performers receive their due

January 6th, 2014
by David Pinto

The first issue of Chain Drug Review of the new year has been reserved traditionally for the announcement of the publication’s outstanding retail performers of the previous 12 months. This issue is no ­exception.

As background to the awards indicated in this issue, it needs to be noted that, in chain drug retailing, the period that ended last week has been an odd 12 months.

Walgreens made headlines throughout the year with initiatives and programs undertaken, developed and modified. So, too, did CVS. Rite Aid stunned the chain drug community with its remarkable performance, one made more so by the difficulties the drug chain had encountered during the past several years.

On a more personal basis, Tony Civello, the legendary executive who has rightly enjoyed the chain drug spotlight for as long as most people have toiled in this industry, announced that he had sold his company, Kerr Drug, to Walgreens, and might not be involved in chain drug retailing for much longer.

Then, too, Steve Lubin, a fixture at Walgreens since Richard Nixon occupied the White House, has decided to take early retirement. Lubin, as those who know him best can attest, has been more than a Walgreens fixture in the tenured sense. His contributions to America’s largest drug chain have been instrumental in making it America’s largest drug chain.

Against that history, this issue’s roster of accomplishments contains some personalities, activities and designations that are new, in the sense that they have not been recognized previously by this publication. It’s also true, however, that some recognition has rightly been bestowed on those individuals who have excelled at traditional chain drug functions.

So it is that Chain Drug Review has recognized the accomplishments of John Standley, Ken Martindale and Frank Vitrano, the triumvirate responsible for collectively transforming Rite Aid, removing the drug chain from the critical list, and returning it to the very first ranks of chain drug retailers, by naming them the publication’s 2013 Retailers of the Year. One only has to look at where Rite Aid has been in recent years to recognize how far this drug chain has come — and how essential the presence of Standley, Martindale and Vitrano has been to rescuing it.

During a year when Walgreens made news primarily through its partnerships — see Alliance Boots and AmerisourceBergen — the drug chain also charted new ground internally, primarily by introducing and expanding new formats, new initiatives and new ideas. The executive behind much of this activity was Mark Wagner, the retailer’s senior operator. To recognize his contributions, the editors of Chain Drug Review have named Wagner as Operations Executive of the Year.

The editors of Chain Drug Review have also recognized the considerable role of CVS Caremark’s senior health care executives in successfully transforming one of America’s leading drug chains into America’s most vital health care retailer and provider.

Those with only a passing understanding of the health care revolution in America can be excused for not grasping CVS’ role in that transformation. Nonetheless it exists — and is further testimony to the staggering effect this exemplary drug chain now exerts in the health care community of the early 21st century.

Additionally, Chain Drug Review has acknowledged the contributions of Civello and Lubin over a lifetime in chain drug retailing by presenting them with the publication’s Ronald L. Ziegler Lifetime Achievement Award. Even in recognizing their contributions to chain drug retailing, it is difficult, if not impossible, to enumerate them effectively — or even completely.

Indeed, it is people of the caliber of Civello and Lubin who have been at the heart of this industry’s success. Together, they have spent some nine decades in chain drug retailing. Marking the industry’s halcyon years as occurring in the middle and late period of the 20th century, these two executives have been part of chain drug retailing through its most prosperous and productive period.

To pursue the possibility that they will be missed is to miss the point of how irreplaceable they will ultimately prove to be. To say that none of us is indispensable is to speak without full knowledge of what Civello and Lubin have done for chain drug retailing in America — or to fully understand how committed they have been for so long to a retailing concept that has emerged, in this century, as a cornerstone of mass retailing.

Those, then, are the outstanding performers of 2013, as chosen by the editors of Chain Drug Review.