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one-hour photo processing three decades later.10
Walgreens eased its own managers into the Globe operation, including
long-time executive Roland G. Schmitt™s son Robert, who ran the divi-
sion, and a 26-year-old man named Charles R. Walgreen III”known by
everyone as Cork (as he will be referred to here). After installing its own
people at the top of the chain and getting a feel for grand-scale discount-
ing”“Everything under the sun . . . Priced Lower!””Walgreens picked up
the pace from a walk to a run, opening a fourth store in Houston, then gi-
gantic Globes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and
two in Phoenix, Arizona. By 1966, Walgreens operated 13 Globe stores,
which accounted for $120 million in gross revenue.11
The postwar era not only expanded the roles of drugstores, it blurred
the borders between virtually all retail businesses, including grocery stores,
department stores, and drugstores, for starters. This helps explain why
Walgreens was so ready to buy up and expand the Globe department store
chain and why it eagerly jumped into the restaurant business by starting
Corky™s, a fast-food chain named after Charles Walgreen III, and Robin
Hood™s, a medieval themed restaurant, in the late 1960s.12 But it also ex-
plains why Walgreens found itself having to fend off price wars”especially




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144 america™s corner s tore

for prescription drugs”from the unlikeliest places. Walgreens only de-
fense, then and now, was the professionalism of its pharmacists.
Though the acquisitions made big, flashy news at the time, Chuck™s
most important decisions were the quieter, tougher, but ultimately far more
rewarding moves behind the scenes, designed to make each Walgreens
store a better place to work and visit.


all power to the pharmacist

Chuck™s reign might not have been as dramatic as his father™s nor as dy-
namic as his son™s; but the other two Walgreens innovated outwardly while
Chuck innovated inwardly, securing the gains made by his father and set-
ting the stage for his son™s building boom in the last quarter of the twenti-
eth century. Instead of pushing expansion, Chuck focused the company™s
efforts on doing what it was already doing”selling top-quality products
and drugs at a fair price in a clean, welcoming environment . . . but doing
all of it better.
Chuck™s first priority was to improve the working conditions and status
of the pharmacists who still worked in every Walgreens store. By shorten-
ing pharmacists™ hours, enhancing their section of the store, and elevating
their status in a number of ways, Chuck™s changes cost the company real
money. But he believed so deeply in his dad™s conviction that the phar-
macy was the backbone, even the soul, of the company”and that without
it, Walgreens would be just another glorified Five and Dime”that he
was willing to do whatever it took to keep Walgreens at the forefront of
the field. Chuck believed that his vision of a first-rate pharmacy depart-
ment run by respected specialists was essential to Walgreens™ culture and
to its future.
And he was right. Chuck was far ahead of his time, and he would be
vindicated many times over in the decades ahead.
Chuck™s first job was to cut back on the pharmacists™ ungodly hours, a
concern of his since he was a boy waiting for his father to come home, ex-
hausted, after another 12-hour day. Things hadn™t gotten any better for




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the pos t war era 145

pharmacists since his father™s day”and in some ways, they were substan-
tially worse. Pharmacists still worked an average of 11 hours per day, six
days a week, with only Sundays off. The work load predictably put tremen-
dous stress on the pharmacists™ health and family life, but long hours were
only part of the problem. With the growth of each store™s floor plan and
product list, the pharmacist™s duties grew, too.
“The pharmacist did not have a self-contained department,” Chuck re-
called. So, “he was also a salesclerk, stockman, and troubleshooter, on call
for every ˜emergency.™ That might be the cigar girl needing change for her
register or a customer needing help to insert film into a new box camera. I
could see why the son or daughter of a pharmacist wouldn™t see a future in
the profession.”13
Walgreens wanted to make the job manageable, starting with a sane
schedule. Chuck sought to give his pharmacists a standard 40-hour work
week, thereby reducing their scheduled hours by 39 percent. “Our
company became the pioneer in working out a definite program of lower-
ing hours,” he said. “We couldn™t do it overnight, of course, or we™d fold
up. . . . We had to make all kinds of studies, see what hours were not too
productive in the stores.”14
The company brought the pharmacists™ hours down step by step. Aided
by the return of 1 million soldiers, the growing number of people attending
pharmacy schools on the GI Bill, and the renewed interest in the profes-
sion due to Walgreens™ reforms, Walgreens finally achieved the 40-hour
work week by the mid-1950s. The competition was stunned, Walgreen re-
called, “because they didn™t see how we could operate on shorter hours.
We were not too popular [with the competition] because we had all the ap-
plicants we could handle.” 15


par tners in health

At the same time that Chuck Walgreen was reducing his druggists™ hours,
he was working to enhance their status, both in the stores and in the med-
ical community.




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146 america™s corner s tore

In 1943, Walgreens filled a record 2.4 million subscriptions, but that
number started falling the next year and the year after that. There were
many possible explanations, of course, including the thousands of
American men going overseas; but one possible factor struck Chuck
Walgreen as particularly worrisome: Doctors were said to be increasingly
reluctant to recommend Walgreens to their patients.
At the outset of the twentieth century, Marilyn Abbey explained in
Walgreens: Celebrating 100 Years, pharmacists routinely diagnosed their
customers ailments and offered recommendations for treatment. The prac-
tice was called “counter-servicing,” and doctors predictably objected to it,
especially as it grew more prevalent during World War II due to the na-
tionwide shortage of physicians.16
Nonetheless, Walgreens couldn™t afford to alienate the medical com-
munity nor to expose itself to the kind of liability that misdiagnosed con-
ditions could create. Serendipity and smart politics conjoined at a cocktail
party in 1944, when Chuck found himself chatting with his good friend
Dr. Morris Fishbein, the esteemed executive secretary of the American
Medical Association (AMA) and editor of the organization™s opinion-
leading journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Chuck raised the issue himself: “I™m very unhappy with how things are
going,” he told the good doctor, “and I™d like to do something to improve
relationships. What can we do?”17
Fishbein was equally direct. “Don™t counter-service any longer. Your
stores, above all, shouldn™t be doing it.”18
Walgreen pledged that his pharmacists would desist the practice imme-
diately”over the objections of the company™s operations division”and
then proposed to take this new agreement one step farther by running full-
page ads in JAMA and Hygeia, the AMA™s health magazine, announcing
Walgreens™ strict policy against counter-servicing.
Walgreens ran similar ads in 210 cities, referring to doctors and phar-
macists as “partners in health,” adding, “Your Walgreens pharmacist does
his part by following your doctor™s instructions and compounding your pre-
scriptions with painstaking care.” Walgreens™ ads were so flattering that a




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modern reader might be tempted to believe the drugstore chain was ask-
ing the AMA for a date to the senior prom. A particularly fine example
expressed “a country™s thankfulness to a man who has stood by a tough
job”and done it well. Mr. and Mrs. American acknowledge with pride
and praise the splendid service of the family doctor.” The chain also of-
fered 13,000 doctors and dentists Walgreens “courtesy cards,” which pro-
vided discounts on all Walgreens merchandise.19
The ads were fawning, perhaps, but undeniably effective, with both
physicians and patients. Just three years after the problem had been iden-
tified, the rift between Walgreens and the AMA had been healed.
In the 1947 annual report, Chuck said, “No matter how our stores de-
velop in size or broaden in character, the prescription department still re-
mains the heart of our business. . . . Our relations with the medical
profession have never been more mutually satisfying.”20 By keeping the
two trades and their responsibilities distinct”an issue that went back to
the beginning of both professions”Walgreens pharmacists earned more
respect from physicians and elevated their status in the bargain.
Walgreen didn™t stop there. He realized if the profession was going to
appeal to the best and brightest graduates flooding out of the nation™s uni-
versities after the war, it would have to provide druggists with a chance to
become managers and share in the store™s profits. This required incoming
pharmacists to have at least a rudimentary background in the business of
running a drugstore, something schools of pharmacy were certainly not
prepared to teach.
This concerned Chuck so much that he decided that if the universities
weren™t going to teach business basics to pharmacists, Walgreens would.
So in 1953, Chuck introduced the Walgreens Pharmacy Administration
Seminar, inviting a dozen college of pharmacy faculty members to attend
a six-week training course, “covering everything from employee relations
to public relations, store planning and maintenance to merchandise han-
dling, legal problems to bookkeeping.”21
Walgreens eventually boiled the course down to a two-week seminar
but continued sponsoring them well into the 1960s. Walgreens finally




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discontinued its workshops because pharmacy schools had begun to offer
business courses themselves. Chuck™s vision had once again been realized.
(Walgreens still hosts seminars for pharmacy deans, and Walgreens now
awards millions of dollars in scholarships to pharmacy students annually.)
At a time when the status of pharmacists was in limbo, both inside and
outside the field, Chuck Walgreen™s sweeping reforms secured the profes-
sionalism, credibility, and respect of pharmacists right up to the present
day. Gallup polls consistently rank pharmacists among the most trusted
professionals in the country”from 1989 to 1990 they ranked first among
all professions. Although Chuck did not add substantially to the number
of Walgreens stores, those 400-some outlets increased the number of pre-
scriptions filled each year from 7.5 million in 1962 to 30 million by 1975.
While the percentage of annual sales rarely rose higher than a meager
4 percent for the company™s first half century, it was a robust 62 percent
in 2003.
A side effect of Chuck™s initiatives, and not a small one, is the genera-
tion of dedicated pharmacists attracted to the field by Walgreens™ reforms,
a generation that has produced almost every member of the Walgreen ex-
ecutive team”including former chief executive officer (CEO) Daniel
Jorndt and current CEO David Bernauer”that has led Walgreens to
heights its predecessors could only dream of.
Bob McKillop was just one of many talented young people whose po-
tential Walgreens identified and developed into lifelong assets. In 1954,
McKillop was a boy who spent every afternoon playing baseball with his
buddies in Springfield, Massachusetts”just like Charles Sr. and his pals
did years earlier on the fields of Dixon, Illinois.22
As the Horatio Alger story requires, one day, one of the players hit the
ball through the big window of the neighborhood Walgreens, sending store
manager Joe Beck flying out the door and into the street to catch the per-
petrators; but he could only nab McKillop. The store manager gave the
sandlot player a choice: McKillop could work off the replacement cost by
stocking shelves after school, or Beck could call his parents and have them
pay for it. Just about anyone who™s been in a similar predicament can guess
McKillop™s quick answer: He promised Mr. Beck he would work it off, in-




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stead of incurring the additional wrath of his parents, which he considered
“the ultimate threat.”
Every day after school, McKillop would walk down to Beck™s store and
stock shelves without complaint. In fact, he did such a good job that when
he had fulfilled his end of the bargain, Beck offered him a paid position.
“I was ecstatic,” McKillop recalled. “As I left that night, he handed me
an envelope with my mother™s name on it. Inside was $138, the wages I
would have earned during those weeks [when he was paying off the win-
dow], and a note explaining the whole situation.
“Joe Beck changed my life,” McKillop said. “I worked for him all
through high school. Then he helped me get a Walgreen scholarship for
pharmacy school.”23 Beck might have given McKillop his break; but it
was Chuck Walgreen™s push to provide more opportunity, better training,
and enhanced status to future pharmacists that turned McKillop™s after-
school job into a career”a career that culminated in McKillop™s retire-
ment in 2000 as one of Walgreens™ regional vice presidents of store
operations.



bat tling the bargain stores

Having won the battle for personnel, Walgreens then had to win the
battle over price. Discounters, department stores, and even mail-order
catalog companies had entered the fray. In the May 1960 Pepper Pod,
Chuck had sounded the clarion call to his employees:

In a growing number of markets, so-called discount drug firms are a
“new” adversary. Actually, it™s the same old competition under a new
name. We have met them before. Pine boards [from the 1930s]. Cut-
Rates [from the 1940s]. And the answers are the same: Be number
one in giving top value for customer™s money, be number one in
treating the customer right. And don™t wait to give new competitors
a start. Begin with round one. Remember that customer loyalty is no
security; it must be earned daily, renewed daily.24




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