NSF and Salesforce figureheads discuss the need for cross-collaboration between health and retail in the post-Covid world

Published by Rhys Taylor-Brown on April 7th 2021, 10:03am

NSF International vice president, Martin Lush, sat down with Salesforce vice president and general manager, Rob Garf, to discuss the role of health retail in vaccine distribution and why cross industry collaboration will be vital in continuing to deliver effective solutions.

Within the discussion, both business leaders discuss the role that retail is currently playing in the effective and safe distribution of vaccines and how the crisis has given rise to a new era of industry collaboration.

During the discussion, Garf was keen to stress the need for the retail sector to continue to bring new ideas to government and traditional health care systems. Salesforce, like many other businesses in the global retail industry, have found themselves having to adapt during the health crisis to help provide solutions for distributing jabs.

The reason the retail sector has had to step in and play a role during the crisis, as Garf explains, is because traditional supply chains were outdated, and legacy health care systems were not adequately equipped to manage distribution on such a large scale. Those issues, combined with regulatory and governmental challenges, made for a complex problem.

Considering the retail sector's very functions of fulfilling the quick and systematic distribution of goods, Garf says that this raison d'être rendered the industry an ideal candidate to respond to consumer demand for vaccines, even more so considering its agility and ability to pivot.

To name one example of how the sector has intervened, bricks-and-mortar retail stores during the crisis have transformed into vaccine distribution centres and deployed their own innovative delivery operations so vaccines can reach those in more remote areas. The pandemic, Garf suggests, has demonstrated to society and to the retail sector itself, the sheer levels of what the industry is capable of. This is something which perhaps was not apparent before the health crisis struck.

Garf proceeds to say that the success of industry collaboration during the global pandemic has been underpinned by the partnership of the health and retail industries. Effective vaccine distribution requires constructive communication between all the key stakeholders: the pharmaceutical industry, the retail industry, business, central government, local government, supply chains and others. Therefore, retail will continue to play a key role in this discussion and take its place within the collaborative effort from all parties.

One question that was raised within the discussion was which companies are best positioned to meet the needs of consumers going forward, and these were earmarked as firms that place themselves at the intersection of health and retail. Brands are in a process now where they are more consciously considering their health and wellbeing product offering, and a crossover between public health and retail is becoming more common.

The outlook for the retail sector therefore looks to be defined, at least to an extent, by a growing relationship with health products. Retail’s role in helping with vaccine distribution is just one example, and it is likely that once the pandemic does come to an end, all will not revert to the status quo of before and the need for cross-collaboration will remain.

Garf recalls that the pandemic saw Salesforce undergo a change from “shareholder management to stakeholder management” and that as the needs of the firm’s customers and broader society changed, retail itself transformed to meet those needs.

With the future of retail dictated by the needs of consumers, and seemingly these needs having been changed forever, the new era of cooperation and a permanent move away from self-interest is likely to remain for a long time to come.

The full interview between Martin Lush and Rob Garf may be seen below.

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Rhys Taylor-Brown
Junior Editor
April 7th 2021, 10:03am

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