20/20 Vision

August 16, 2015By Future of Retail, Views

By Dave Wendland for Drug Store News

July 16, 2015

My father offered numerous pearls of wisdom that have helped shape who I am today. One such nugget is apropos as we look at the future of our ever-changing industry, “You can’t move forward effectively if you spend your time only looking in the rearview mirror.”

Thus is the case in our industry. Looking back over the past few years only suggests that there is more change afoot, and that just when you think you have found the key, somebody changes the lock. I’d like to offer a few predictions of what may be around the next corner based on a series of recent developments. Please keep in mind I have neither a crystal ball nor E.S.P., but I do have a very active imagination.


Perhaps the most talked about global move in recent years was Walgreens’ alignment with Boots Alliance. But equally revolutionary was Cardinal Health’s aggressive move into China; CVS Health’s expansion into Brazil; McKesson’s emergence in Europe through its acquisition of Celesio; Amneal’s acquisition in Australia; and, more recently, entry on the branded side within Europe by Perrigo and Lidl’s aggressive plans to enter the U.S. grocery market (although delayed until 2018).

The future

Make no mistake; the marketplace is no longer confined by the borders of a country or a continent. Global commerce allows efficient movement from country to country and, unlike prior times, certain segments of the developing world are poised for westernization. There are countless pockets of opportunity on the retail, manufacturer, and distributor side of the ledger, and looking out through the windshield suggests unrealized potential.


It wasn’t terribly long ago — circa 1999 — that e-commerce emerged onto the scene in the retail drugstore space and introduced a new venue for shoppers. Fast forwarding, we have witnessed an evolution in this online space that has created new competitors, experiences, and options. Omnichannel retail is the new buzzword (and direction for most) along with BOPIS — buy online, pick-up in store.

The future

Simply put, “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” Mobile will quickly become the standard and anticipatory shipping will make shopping easier for consumers. I predict that more brick-and-mortar retailers will capitalize on their main street “warehouses” encouraging more online ordering and pick-up in store. There will also be connectivity and personalization at every turn — especially related to loyalty programs.


CVS Health’s acquisition of the Target-based pharmacies and clinic operations is a great example of literally thinking outside the box. Of course, they weren’t first. Sephora is inside JCPenney, there are Office Depots inside c-stores, and Starbucks have become ubiquitous, embedded into numerous settings. Self-service kiosks also represent a similar, smaller-scale version. Best Buy and 3FLOZ vending machines within airports are wonderful examples of this phenomenon.

The future

More — much more — cross-pollination. I predict that unlikely partners will align to take advantage of each other’s footprint and unique domain expertise. Honestly, I see little significant downside for the retailers, and a wonderful upside for the consumers. Additional expansion of manufacturer-centered stores-within-a-store, or pop-up concepts to broaden reach, influence, brand awareness, and product sales will also be on the rise.

Smart products

Surely smart watches and Fitbits are great examples. So are Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure and glucose monitors. And let’s not forget about TENS treatments, adherence enhancing tools, and physicians-on-call. Smart products combine technology with a product or service that enhances the consumer experience.

The future

“Smart” products will rapidly emerge in the form of diagnostics combined with over-the-counter medications (imagine UTI testing combined with feminine protection products; antimicrobial products that first detect for infection; an app that can measure the liquidity in one’s eyes and determine the artificial tear drop treatment required). The list of possibilities is endless to combine self-diagnostics (manual or smart phone-enabled) with an OTC or other non-prescription treatment.

This merely introduces a snippet of what I foresee on the horizon. The exciting thing is that nothing will remain the same. Technology, advanced science, partnerships, and consumer demands are all pushing the envelope toward new market solutions. Imagine the possibilities!