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Perhaps the most underrated and underappreciated retail trade event in America today is the exposition about to unfold in San Diego. For those of you who have been living in a fairy tale world in which all good things come eventually to those who sit and wait, the event in question is called Total Store Expo, or TSE for short. It is launched annually each summer by the laudable National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

If that organization’s Annual Meeting, the major convention occurrence that marks mass retailing’s spring calendar, is the industry’s signature event, TSE is its stepchild. For no discernable reason. 

As background, let’s assume for a moment that the primary role of mass retailers in America and the supplier companies with whom they deal is doing business. Along the way, their jobs are made easier if they get to know each other, not as passing acquaintances but as partners in the game of developing, increasing and perfecting the art of doing business. That, after all, is the primary appeal of the NACDS Annual Meeting.

So should it be with Total Store Expo. Convened each summer during the dog days of August, it is designed to transform those days into a productive and enlightening week under the sometimes-pleasant, if often sweltering late summer sun.

To that end, NACDS has designed an event without peer in bringing buyers and sellers together. Throughout the days of programmed events, there is more-than-ample time for retailers and the suppliers with whom they do business to interact, to sharpen old relationships or form new ones, to move their business agendas ahead, sometimes with unprecedented speed and efficiency. And this, after all, is what retailing is really about.

Why, then, has TSE been a laggard, a slow-to-develop stepchild to the legendary Annual Meeting? Several reasons — or should we call them rationals — come readily to mind.

First is the calendar. Summer in America is not always conducive to doing business. All things considered, we’d rather be at the beach. Or in the country. Or anywhere but at the office. But that’s our problem, not NACDS’.

Second, NACDS has not always championed this meeting as assiduously as it has some of its other events. Often, the NACDS staff has approached TSE more as a chore than a blessing. Instead of welcoming attendees, the organization occasionally apologizes for disturbing their summer holiday. This needs to change. Several ideas come to mind — but those can wait for another time. 

Finally, mass retailing has become too complacent. Why should we come to them when they can come to us. That’s the implicit, if not always stated, attitude. Again, this has to change — the sooner the better.

Against that backdrop, the staff of Chain Drug Review wishes to congratulate those of you who are now debarking in San Diego. You’ve made a wise decision, one that will pay untold dividends going forward.

So for those of you who’ve chosen to stay at the beach …