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PALM BEACH, Fla. — The unofficial start of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ annual meeting, held at the Breakers Hotel April 28 through May 3, was Revlon’s cocktail party and dinner. The event, hosted at Donald Trump’s luxurious Mar-A-Lago, served as a tribute to the accomplishments of Paul Murphy, who has departed as the company’s executive vice president of North American sales, and also as a welcoming for Karl Obrecht, who assumes that role. Obrecht is well known to discounters, but used the evening to acquaint himself with drugstore executives.

Melissa Etheridge entertained the group and joked about all the makeup waiting in her hotel room — and how she had made herself up that night. She also applauded efforts to provide makeup for aging women and pleaded for products “you [don’t have to] put on with your glasses on.”

Revlon’s new Vital Radiance is positioned for aging Baby Boomers. Its launch, according to buyers attending the conference, is having a slower-than-expected start. While buyers are committed to the brand and love the quality of the items, they would like to see improved packaging and marketing to educate women about the products. Revlon’s other initiative, the relaunch of Almay, has been one of the few new lines that is considered a bona fide success by retailers.

Revlon created sparks last Friday night, but the real fire was ignited Sunday morning by NACDS chairman Tony Civello, who is also president and chief executive officer of Kerr Drug. Civello addressed NACDS attendees with a speech that didn’t pull punches about the troubles the group is facing, from replacing Craig Fuller, who recently resigned as president and ceo, to improving relationships with members of government, who currently “are more adversary than ally,” Civello said.

“There are those who would rather see us disappear. Community pharmacy is losing out,” he said, explaining that the organization is coming across as “fragmented and disjointed.” Civello said his crisis moment came when President Bush accused pharmacists of cheating the government on Medicaid reimbursement. “Like you, I was angry and very sad to hear that comment. It was the first time, and I sincerely hope the last time, when the words ‘immoral’ and ‘pharmacists’ appear in the same sentence,” he said.

This story first appeared in the May 5, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Even Jack Welch, a keynote speaker that morning, noted that Civello’s speech was “fiery,” and that results from 2005 were clearly not what Civello had hoped to achieve. The former General Electric chief went on to say that speeches can resonate only so far with employees, and must immediately be followed up by a firm course of action.