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Thrifty PayLess is true to its roots as a drug chain.

WILSONVILLE, Ore.--As one of the few Thrifty Corp. senior executives to be retained by Thrifty PayLess Inc., senior vice president of southern store operations John Greer has a unique perspective on the direction of the merged company--and he likes what he sees.

Saying that Thrifty had "kind of lost its way" prior to the merger, Greer says the new management team is returning the division to its roots as an operator of neighborhood drug stores. "Thrifty went through some tough times," notes the 32-year veteran of the chain, "so it makes me feel good to see us getting back to basics. Native Californians will tell you they grew up with Thrifty and want its outlets to be drug stores."

Greer joined Thrifty PayLess as vice president of labor, and his experience in dealing with Thrifty's unions has proved invaluable. In one year he negotiated more than 30 contracts, "putting ourselves in a positron to have labor peace almost up to the next century," he says.

Greer has general praise for the handling of the merger, noting, "We've done a yeoman like job." He says the retailer has done a good job maintaining Thrifty's better-selling merchandise while expanding the depth of its health and beauty aids selection. An upgrading of private label products and the addition of one-hour photofinishing, nursery departments and shoes has also paid off. Customer acceptance of the revamped Thrifty units has been strong, comments Greer, and sales are starting to "skyrocket."

He holds out particular commendation for the leadership of Thrifty PayLess president and chief executive officer Gordon Barker, noting that Thrifty is being run by a pharmacist for the first time in its history. "Pharmacy is really our niche in the retail field," Greer argues. "It's the difference between us and other trade classes. Barker comes from that perspective. He's a demanding individual but at the same time he's very supportive."

Greer, who works out of an office in northern San Diego County, will endeavor to be very supportive of regional and district managers. "I'll run interference so they aren't encumbered with red tape and bureaucracy," says Greer, who himself rose through the ranks of store manager, district manager and regional manager to become Thrifty's director of store operations.

"I like to let people in the field assume as much responsibility as possible and give them all the credit for good results," he notes. "Performance that is praised is usually repeated. Everyone in this industry has the same merchandise and similar locations. The difference is people. The people on the front line can't mask their feelings. If they're respected it will carry over into customer service. They'll heat customers the way we heat them."

Greer says that the intense effort by Thrifty PayLess to revamp the Thrifty outlets means the company can now go forward by expanding both divisions. From the perspective of history, he's optimistic about what lies ahead.

"I saw Thrifty ice cream cones sell for a nickel," recalls Greer. "Now they're 69 cents and still a terrific value. Families coming in for a cone appreciate us for hewing to the corner drug store tradition. It makes us feel good and especially builds the self-esteem of our pharmacists and store personnel.

"Thrifty will never be exactly what it once was, but I hope it will be something better. It's pretty much up to us. The big-box retailers are struggling in California. We're doing better and have lots of opportunity to continue to grow. I'm looking forward to coming to work every day. It's starting to be a lot of fun, just like 25 yeas ago. I'm excited to be here to see the rebirth of Thrifty."
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Title Annotation:Thrifty PayLess Inc.
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Mar 25, 1996
Words:613
Previous Article:Keeping stores running smoothly.
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