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communication between the central office and the outlets was constant One way Walgreens negotiated this tricky balance between its desire to keep motivated, largely autonomous store managers while maintaining consistent presentation across the chain was to send Harry Goldstine s two traveling agents to the stores every day to see how they were doing, to collect their best practices, and to share those of other stores with them The traveling duo also served as talent scouts, just as Walgreens traveling zone and district managers do today When they visited a store facing a particular problem, the company reps helped fix it If the problem proved intractable or if the employees were genuinely incompetent or uncoachable, the agents had the power to recommend closing a store or firing a staff member, though Knight noted such drastic steps were too rare to impinge on the spirit of friendly cooperation that existed between the stores and the central office The approach was visit, share, and monitor, but avoid dictating much like Walgreens approach today The central office reached out to the stores in other ways, too At the time of Knight s report, the company produced a daily, one-page Pepper Pod for its employees, containing all manner of marketing advice, price notices, and managerial tips plus an occasional motivational pep talk every word written or reviewed by Charles and printed on a single mimeographed sheet by Walgreen s secretary, Florence Lynch (Current employees might recognize this as a forerunner to retired CEO Dan Jorndt s weekly Jorndt s Jolts, which were so good that the company had them collected into a volume They have been succeeded by current CEO Dave Bernauer s Dose of Dave ) Knight gave other aspects of the macroeconomic side of the organization mixed reviews strong on central marketing and purchasing, inefficient in accounting practices Knight confirmed what everyone already knew that marketing was one of the company s greatest strengths, from the beginning but he shed some light on why: the remarkable dedication Walgreens had to presenting a good store image and promoting it Always a firm believer in advertising a legacy of the patent medicine
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business, the first American industry to fully exploit the tactic Walgreen once told an interviewer, No business can prosper without letting the public know of its existence and the values it offers 48 He put the company s money where his mouth was and consistently spent 2 percent to 3 percent of his revenues on newspaper ads It might not sound like much, but that figure represented the profit margin for many stores and, in real dollars, adds up fast: $54,887 in 1922, up to $245,788 just two years later, thanks to the increase in both the number of stores and the revenues per store On November 16, 1922, Walgreens took a bold step when it bought its first full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune to announce Chicago s Leading Drug Sale for that Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the most popular shopping days, Walgreens had learned Among the attractions offered that a modern reader might recognize were Listerine for 67 cents a bottle, Pepsodent at 31 cents a tube, and Ivory soap for 7 cents a bar Walgreens also peddled a few items not commonly found on its shelves today, including Enoz moth spray, Norwegian Cod Liver Oil, and Fairyfoot, which stops bunion pain for just 89 cents The campaign was such a big hit that Walgreens did it again a month later, in another three-day stretch a week before Christmas Almost always, Charles s faith in advertising paid off handsomely Of course, getting people to visit your stores won t count for much if they don t like what they see when they get there While other drugstores, chains or otherwise, were often careless with their window displays, Walgreens had established a veritable army of 25 men whose sole job was to create the most appealing and effective window displays possible They accomplished this by making posters, drawing up sketches, trying different angles on the easels that held up their signs, and experimenting with various looks until they hit on a winner Then they sent the recipe on to their stores, which were expected to improvise the centralized design but not dismiss it If all this seems like overkill for a 10-by-20-foot window space, well, you just have to see what they came up with back then, something more akin
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