What will an ex Crate & Barrel CEO bring to her new job leading CVS Pharmacy?

Discussion
Neela Montgomery, President of CVS Pharmacy - Photo: CVS Health
Nov 24, 2020
George Anderson

CVS Health Corporation announced yesterday that it has hired Neela Montgomery as executive vice president and president of CVS Pharmacy/Retail, effective Nov. 30, to run the company’s 10,000 drugstores and lead its 190,000 employees across the U.S.

Ms. Montgomery, who is currently a board partner at Greycroft, a venture capital firm, is better known for her stint as CEO of the Crate & Barrel. She led a digital transformation at the furniture chain. The company grew its online sales to half of total revenues on her three-year watch.

Before she joined Crate & Barrel, Ms. Montgomery served on the board of the Otto Group, one of the leading e-commerce retailers in the world, for six years. She previously served as the UK e-commerce director at Tesco, one of many management positions in merchandising and a variety of other roles at the British retailing giant.

CVS’s high profile hiring of Ms. Montgomery answers the questions that many had when she announced she was leaving Crate & Barrel last summer. Her departure from the furniture retailer came as a surprise for some based on the high marks she received for integrating the company’s physical and digital operations.

As to her plans heading into her new job, Ms. Montgomery talked about the “important role” that CVS plays in the health and lives of Americans.

“Increasingly these health care touch points will be digital, virtual and in-person,” she said. “This is a fantastic opportunity to help accelerate the company’s bold vision to deliver consumer health services in the community and ensure CVS Pharmacy plays an essential role in customers’ health moments.”

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus was one of the most critical moments in the medical history of the U.S. The pandemic has claimed nearly 258,00 American lives, with the number of newly confirmed cases having risen 49 percent over the past two weeks, according to statistics compiled by The New York Times.

A recent bright spot has been the announcements by pharmaceutical companies that immunizations have proven safe and effective in test cases so far. Expectations are that vaccines will be available at some point in 2021, and pharmacies such as CVS are expected to play a key role in their distribution.

The Trump administration last week said it saw a sharp uptick in the numbers of seniors signing up for free COVID-19 vaccines at CVS and other pharmacies taking part in a federal program, according to CNBC.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What effect do you think Neela Montgomery will have on CVS’s drugstore operations and overall company results? Where do you see the greatest challenges and opportunities facing CVS as Ms. Montgomery moves into her new job?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I would focus on three things right away: better digital experiences, efficient and effective vaccine distribution processes, and (please!) shorter receipts!"
"Great strategic move by CVS to bring Neela Montgomery as CEO! She will bring innovative ideas to the drugstore space..."
"Neela Montgomery and her new leadership team have an outstanding opportunity to take a customer and digital-first approach to pharmacy retailing."

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11 Comments on "What will an ex Crate & Barrel CEO bring to her new job leading CVS Pharmacy?"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

If Ms. Montgomery can bring just one fraction of the flair and style that is present in Crate & Barrel stores to CVS then I will be very pleased! However a more serious point is that Ms. Montgomery has very deep retail experience and understands trading, digital transformation, and customer focus. This experience is exactly what is needed at CVS which has become far too focused on healthcare to the detriment of the retail side. Success in both is needed for a bright future and I am sure Ms. Montgomery will help redress the balance.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

Ms. Montgomery will bring a broader perspective and focus to CVS. Her experience should help CVS create a more unique position in the market as well as accelerate e-commerce and digital capabilities. And maybe there will be a catalog, too?

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

It’s not hard to project that Ms. Montgomery will make online capabilities a core focus for CVS. Her challenge will be to drag the company out of its 1980s habits and into this century. With Amazon entering the Rx world there is no time to waste.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

If I were Ms. Montgomery, I would focus on three things right away: better digital experiences, efficient and effective vaccine distribution processes, and (please!) shorter receipts!

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

I admire Ms. Montgomery’s accomplishments and I applaud CVS’s commitment to bringing a fresh perspective to their strategic direction. The convergence of physical and digital spaces is one area in which I fully expect Ms. Montgomery to accelerate (drugstores lag in this area). Additionally, Ms. Montgomery can help to focus all of the many healthcare touchpoints into a unified patient experience. This could be a game-changer for CVS and for the delivery of healthcare in general.

I’m quite bullish on the new leadership emerging at CVS and look forward to the results for the company, its associates, and the patients/consumer it serves.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

The challenge for Ms. Montgomery will be twofold. She is going into a category that she understands only from a consumer’s point of view, and this will be the largest company she has run in terms of number of locations and employees. Lots to learn.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Just as Rite Aid and other retail pharmacy chains are pivoting to a health and wellness strategy, CVS requires a similar customer-first business transformation. CVS’s expansionary and vast assortment model worked for decades; however today’s consumer focuses on health, safety, security and, most importantly, their family’s wellness needs.

Neela Montgomery and her new leadership team have an outstanding opportunity to take a customer and digital-first approach to pharmacy retailing. The CVS stores are long overdue to be reimagined, the assortments need to be optimized and localized, and the focus should be on more natural and holistic product offerings.

While the pharmacy represents a large portion of the company’s business, Neela Montgomery and the team have a unique opportunity to transform the retail space for today’s value- and health-conscious consumers.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I always love these choices because they are outside the box. I think this is exactly what CVS needs especially now as Amazon enters the Rx arena. She will have a steep learning curve, but she can definitely use her previous experience to make positive changes at CVS and create a better experience in-store and online. And yes, hopefully shorter receipts!

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

If Neela Montgomery can bring the essence of what makes great digital and in-store experiences at Crate & Barrel to both the CVS digital and in-store customer experience it will be an amazing accomplishment! CVS suffers on both fronts today – digital and in-store need much improvement. And then there’s that excessively long receipt to address! Perhaps her focus will lead to more attention and care placed on these retail experiences versus the healthcare experience CVS has focused on in recent years. A balance is needed to make CVS a place customers want to experience and not just be a life necessity.

Bindu Gupta
BrainTrust

Great strategic move by CVS to bring Neela Montgomery as CEO! She will bring innovative ideas to the drugstore space given her immense experience on the retail and digital side. I think her biggest challenge would be to align all internal teams and departments and work towards a common goal effectively.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

I’ll not question their votes — many may follow these types of things — but I think
the many A’s and B’s readers gave are a reflection of the theory that any top-notch individual can run any type of company. There’s certainly nothing in her background that I can see — partner in a VC firm, running a housewares company — to suggest this is a logical match.

I wish her well.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I would focus on three things right away: better digital experiences, efficient and effective vaccine distribution processes, and (please!) shorter receipts!"
"Great strategic move by CVS to bring Neela Montgomery as CEO! She will bring innovative ideas to the drugstore space..."
"Neela Montgomery and her new leadership team have an outstanding opportunity to take a customer and digital-first approach to pharmacy retailing."

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