Retail is Alive and Well

By Mark Land, AAHP President

Retailers represent a strong touchpoint within a community, providing goods and services in a way that promotes stability, accessibility to products, and more. The “more” means different things depending on the distribution channel. For example, the grocery channel encourages the health of the community it serves by first providing access to fresh wholesome food — the basis of good nutrition. Drug stores provide access to lifesaving and enhancing medications and other medical services. Online retailers enhance our lives through access to a wide variety of products and options.

In his article, “What Is the Future of Retail,” Ray Petrick reminds us that frequent deliveries of essential products from local retailers was commonplace 50 years ago. What’s old is new again. Today convenience is only part of what a modern retailer offers. Recently I was speaking with a regional grocery retailer and learned about the things they are doing to improve the shopping experience as well as the health of their shoppers and the communities they serve. A modern grocery retailer provided fresh and prepared foods. Nothing new there but what is new is that they also provide nutrition counselling, food security through donation programs, and educational support to families in underserved communities. This is not the grocery retailer of 50 years ago.

We all know of the heroic efforts of pharmacies and pharmacists during the pandemic: delivering vital medications during the lockdown. Pharmacies also provided a vital link to testing and immunizations during the pandemic and continue in this role today. Facing labor shortages, pharmacies sometimes staffed by only two or three people struggle to remain open when staff is short. A link to essential community healthcare is a pharmacy’s mission now more than ever. We have all come to expect more of pharmacies in recent years. For many, pharmacies are the first and only point for healthcare.

Online retailers and retail cooperatives like Instacart offer a wide variety of products and convenient delivery for busy families and others for whom a trip to the store does not work. The promise of convenience, variety, and price are enticing. Finding products that you love that didn’t make it to retail shelves online can be very rewarding, allowing you to maintain a health or beauty routine that might have gone awry otherwise. Convenient automatic reorders bundled with other merchandise saves shipping charges and keeps consumers stocked with must-haves. Fifty years ago, catalog sales were twice as large as in-store sales and were essential for rural families. Today everyone can shop like a sophisticated urbanite, even in the most rural of our country’s vast lands.

In some ways retailing has not changed much but in many ways it has. Retailers offer more products and services to support our health than ever before. Despite the nostalgia some may feel towards home delivery from a company-owned delivery truck manned by a neighbor, retailers today are doing a fine job.