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Rich seeks to create new image at Thrifty.

Rich seeks to create new image at Thrifty

Who is Eve Rich?

Four months after the former president of Contempo Casuals joined Thrifty Corp. as president of the 650-store Thrifty drug chain, chain drug industry people are still asking that question.

Few people outside the Thrifty chain have as yet met Rich. Indeed, from an outsider's view, she appears uninterested at the prospect of meeting anyone not employed at Thrifty, going so far as to not attend the upcoming National Association of Chain Drug Stores Annual Meeting. In fact, however, she has put all her time and energy into reorganizing the drug chain, shuffling personnel, bringing in a series of new executives, and, so the stories go, designing a drug store that is in keeping with her views of retailing, views she learned and sharpened while successfully running the Contempo apparel chain.

More than curiosity

That description alone would make her more than a curiosity. Then there's the matter of her sex. As the first woman to rise to the rank of president of a major drug chain, she is the subject of endless speculation. How will she deal with her peers? How will she deal with suppliers? How will her peers deal with her? How will she fit into a chain drug industry that, though close-knit, is sometimes slow to accept outsiders?

Then there's the matter of her background and experience, both of which are unique for a chain drug industry executive. While most of today's senior chain drug executives have come to their present positions through the industry's ranks - Revco's Boake Sells and HSI's Phil Beekman are two exceptions that come to mind - Rich comes to the industry from apparel retailing, which is just about as far from chain drug retailing as you can get and still be labeled a retailer.

In fact, her recent success at Contempo only adds to the curiosity with which chain drug retailers speak of her. For Contempo, as many chain drug retailers know by now, caters to young women, while chain drug stores, as is also generally known, are most frequently shopped by women over age 40.

At bottom, that's really what makes Rich so intriguing a subject. For the word trickling out of Los Angeles is that Rich intends to remake Thrifty into a drug chain that is more attractive to women customers, an audience Thrifty has sometimes not focused on in the past. Thus, words like "fashion" and "lifestyle merchandising" are being heard at Thrifty's headquarters amid talk that Rich intends to remerchandise Thrifty to provide more incentives for women shoppers. Rich, it is said, has begun transforming Thrifty into a drug chain that will attract more female customers with merchandise that women need, want and can relate to, merchandise geared to the lifestyle of the California woman and her family.

In the main, the people she has brought to Thrifty, most all of them from the apparel industry, lend credence to her intentions and ideas.

Thus, there is talk of expanding the chain's stationery offerings, not with basic merchandise but with a mix that emphasizes fashion. There is talk of upgrading such departments as greeting cards and cosmetics. There is talk of making Thrifty a destination store for other than prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Much of this talk has confounded and confused Thrifty's competitors as well as the vendors that have long sold the chain conventional drug store merchandise. But it has also created a sense of anticipation not seen in the chain drug industry in some considerable time. Drug chains are always tinkering with new prototypes, but they have invariably been designed to make shopping easier, not to make it a different experience entirely. Rich's approach may be dramatically different in that she seeks to create a new image, mix and customer for her drug chain. In the process she is tackling head-on the industry's concern over its growing dependence on prescription drugs for traffic, sales and profits.

Thus, while few industry people yet know who Eve Rich is, her ideas have already created considerable interest, speculation and, yes, excitement in an industry that sometimes appears to have run out both of new ways of attracting customers and new customers to attract. As such, sight unseen, she is already a breath of fresh air in an industry dominated by executives who believe, to a man, that pharmacy and health care are the only logical ways to attract the only logical drug store customer: the over-40 consumer.

Welcome to the chain drug industry, Ms. Rich.
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Title Annotation:Eve Rich, president of Thrifty Drug
Author:Pinto, David
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Article Type:editorial
Date:Apr 8, 1991
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