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Thursday, August 24, 2021

I can only assume that Rite Aid’s agreement to absorb the Brooks/Eckerd drugstore group for $2.6 billion will result in the disappearance of both the Brooks and Eckerd store brands.

If so, as an alumus of Eckerd College, I’m happy as a clam. Not that I encountered many instances when someone would ask, upon finding out where I went to school, why I decided to go into pharmaceuticals. And the withdrawal of Eckerd stores from Florida, combined with their rather thin presence in New York (as far as I’ve seen), pretty much eliminated that possibility anyway. Still, I’d rather there be one, and only one, Eckerd brandname out there.

Now, I’ve got to cross my fingers that my alma mater doesn’t pull a fast one and rename itself “Rite Aid Tech” or something…

It was questionable that the Jean Coutu Group persisted with the Eckerd brand after buying the remains of the operations in 2004, when CVS simply assimilated its half under its own banner right away (including in Florida, where Eckerd Drugs started its life). The chain’s expansion up the East Coast didn’t build much equity, and ultimately put the company in a position where it had to sell itself off. Now, less than a decade later, it’s about to be snuffed out completely.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/24/2006 08:17:27 AM
Category: Business, College Years, Florida Livin'
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  1. I worked at Eckerd Drugs for several years in their systems group. I wrote a lot of the software they use to manage the computers in the stores. From what I saw when I was there and understood from people who were there before/after me Eckerd Drugs was left without pharmacy leadership after Jack Eckerd left. When JC Penneys bought the company in the late 90’s they tried to run it like a grocery and tried to cut staff in the pharmacy as much as possible, which made it hard to get scripts filled in a timely manner. No matter how fast they bought up stores they couldn’t compete with CVS and Walgreens because of mismanagement.

    Jean Coutu actually was the one who bought all of Eckerds. CVS couldn’t buy the entire company because it would give them too large a presence in the North East (there’s laws about that sort of thing above and beyond anti-trust). CVS wanted the “traditional” Eckerd stores in the southeast and Texas and Jean Coutu wanted the stores in the northeast where Eckerd fuled it’s growth through purchasing other stores. Jean Coutu wouldn’t be prohibited from owning all of the stores so they financed the entire deal to buy Eckerd from JC Penny then proceeded to immediately sell off about 1800 stores in the South East where the Eckerd name had value. In the areas where they kept stores the Eckerd name has only been around since maybe 1997 and it wasn’t a good name.

    It’s really sad to see what happened to Eckerd Drugs. It used to be quite the company before Jack Eckerd retired. It won’t be long before people are wondering how Ruth Eckerd Hall and that little private college in St. Pete got it’s name.

    Comment by Michael Conlen — 08/24/2006 @ 09:12:46 AM

  2. I don’t know the exact transactional skeleton of the original deal, but it was reported as JCPenney splitting the Eckerd stores between Jean Coutu and CVS. Whether it had to be structured as a single outright sale of the whole thing to Coutu, then Coutu immediately selling half (or whatever that geographic spread amounted to) to CVS to complete the deal, I don’t know. The Eckerd Health Services mail-order business also ended up under CVS’ umbrella.

    Eckerd Drugstores did fail to adapt; as soon as Walgreens and CVS started opening up stores in Tampa and Orlando and Miami, it was obvious that the downward spiral had set in. The ironic part is that the competition was eating Eckerd’s own lunch. Jack Eckerd ushered in innovations that really transformed the retail pharmacy biz; it went from old-fashioned druggist behind the counter to over-the-counter sales and more of a supermarket structure. When the landscape moved even further toward a grocery-like structure, they couldn’t keep up.

    I know that on my last couple of visits to an Eckerd store, years ago, I was struck by how disorganized they were: Shelves piled high with grocery products, but in no particular order.

    Ultimately, it’s a good thing that no one’s going to associate Ruth Eckerd Hall and EC with the now-dead corporation. Technically, those efforts had to do with Eckerd the man, not Eckerd the company (I realize the company’s money made them possible, but still).

    Comment by CT — 08/24/2006 @ 12:34:55 PM

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