retail news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story yesterday about Amazon considering an entry into the $300 billion pharmacy business, which prompted this email from an MNB reader:

As the spouse of a long-time pharmacist who is active in both her state and national pharmacy organizations, this is truly scary.   Between the enormous growth of the number of pharmacy schools in the US over the past decade and the resulting increase in pharmacy graduates, we are already approaching a glut of practitioners who are challenged to find a desirable pharmacy job.   Adding Amazon to this equation as a pharmacy services provider will make their futures even more uncertain.

Retail pharmacists in particular have been struggling with clarifying their value proposition to their patients as more and more of their time is tied up with haggling with other medical providers and pharmacy benefit managers, instead of listening to and counseling patients.   The need to process and fill a minimum number of scripts on an hourly or daily basis to demonstrate efficiency in a retail setting is also preventing pharmacists from doing much more than just handing a bag to a patient.   All of these realities are causing retail pharmacists to not be able to demonstrate their depth of medical resources to patients; these issues limit the effectiveness of pharmacists as medical providers who can work with physicians and other providers to improve compliance, reduce med errors, and provide better outcomes at a lower cost to the US medical system.

It is with all of this in mind that potential competitors like Amazon believe they can commoditize pharmacy services and boil them down to the shipment of a package to a patient, much like many pharmacy benefit managers already do.   However, without that face-to-face personal contact with a single pharmacy on an ongoing basis, a patient misses out on a valuable opportunity to both ask questions and receive counseling from an enormous wealth of medical knowledge who could save them time, money, and precious medical resources, in addition to becoming an advocate for that specific patient in dealing with other healthcare providers.

In order to preserve the future of retail pharmacists, it will be essential that they do a better job of telling this story to patients and employers along with  demonstrating these talents to all in order to preserve their role in the US medical system and not allow the Amazons of the world to perceive that pharmacists can be replaced by a computer and a delivery service.

From MNB reader Carol Lynn Breedlove:

If I were CVS or Walgreens, I would be looking to make an alliance with Amazon. 
1.       Order online. Pick up in store.
2.       Order in store. Amazon delivery.
3.       Both CVS and Walgreen are ubiquitous and their stores could serve as pick up point points for any Amazon order.
4.       If I were CVS or Walgreens I would love the built in line to all the Prime (and non-Prime) Amazon members.
5.       Etc. etc. etc.

The magic, I think, is in the etceteras...

We also had a story yesterday about how Amazon is expanding the capabilities of its Alexa-based digital assistants, allowing users to enable them to provide notifications without being verbally prompted.

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

We love our Echo and can’t wait for these improvements. However I began to think about the seemingly hourly “breaking news” out of our nation’s capital, wonder how long it will take before Alexis starts flashing red…….and states “time to hit the mattresses” and it is not a Target ad?

From another reader:

This sounds like Bezos’s ideal scenario: left-leaning WAPO news pushed to you so quickly that there’s no need to look at the paper, watch TV or check your twitter feed.  It’s brilliant.

I sense sarcasm here.

We posted an email yesterday from an MNB reader who suggested that there are two kinds of retailers - those with Merchandising Driven Retail Cultures and those with Operations Driven Retail Cultures.

I responded that at Amazon, they'd probably define their business as being Customer Driven ... which prompted MNB reader Andy Becker to respond:

Which is why Amazon is assimilating competition like the Borg. Most retailers are not thinking of the customer experience first. It's somewhere down the list.

Got the following email from an MNB reader:

It’s funny the many common interests we have. The works of Robert B. Parker, especially Spenser. Connelly’s Bosch and the exceptional Amazon series. And today, with the legacy Powers Boothe has left behind, you make it a point to singularly mention in your KC’s View what was my favorite role – Boothe’s take on Philip Marlowe on HBO in the ‘80s. I was in high school when it aired – and my dad and I considered it our weekend companion piece to the "Spenser: For Hire" series airing concurrently on ABC. Even today, when I revisit the Chandler source material, I have Powers Boothe’s voice in my head as Marlowe.

I consider myself fortunate to have found the entire HBO run a few years ago on DVD … through Amazon, of course. And not two weeks ago – cosmically, who knows how these things work – I was marveling at how amazing it would be if today Boothe reprised his Marlowe, even more world-weary, some thirty years on, plying his PI trade in 1960s Los Angeles. “To say goodbye is to die a little.” I’ll miss his work, and the wonder of what could have been.

And, from MNB reader Chris Esposito:

Kevin, just finished up this season’s "Bosch" last week and found it riveting.  I’m a huge Penguins fan and I even let the first few minutes of the game go the other day to watch the end of the last episode (even though I could have just paused it).  I really love the way they have kept to the overall atmosphere Connelly developed in his books and brought that to the screen.  I’m just hoping Connelly can keep banging out some more novels so we can keep the series going on Amazon Prime! 
KC's View: