I’m a big fan of Old Time Radio programs, my favorites are the Jack Benny Program and the Phil Harris & Alice Faye Show. Phil’s program was sponsored by a company many of you may be familiar with, Rexall. These were the drugstores with the familiar orange and blue Rexall signs that some still have hanging outside even though Rexall has been dead for several years.
Started in 1902 by Louis Liggett, this cooperative of independent pharmacists grew to a point where there were 11,000 Rexall drug stores in the United States making them the largest drug store chain in the county.
But what happened to Rexall?
I wanted to know the answer to that question, so I started reading the book The Rexall Story: A History Of Genius And Neglect by Mickey Smith and found this history of the company not only fascinating, but well ahead of it’s time. From the company’s early days when Liggett was seeking investors, to the time when Rexall manufactured 2,000 of their own products and the ultimate death of the company due to management’s lack of focus and the emergence of discount chains.
During Rexall’s successful years, their marketing was incredible. Sponsoring such popular programs as Phil Harris & Alice Faye was a win for them for many years. But no promotion in the history of retail was ever so successful as the Rexall One-Cent-Sale.
The One-Cent-Sale was held two times a year. Products were picked in advance and druggists stocked up and often times ran out of merchandise before the sale was over. The concept of the One-Cent-Sale was simple, but one item at regular price, get a second for a penny more.
While Rexall isn’t credited with originating the One-Cent-Sale, they are credited with actually making it work. And work it did. Consumers waited for the announcement of the sale, and on the day it started, rushed in to their neighborhood Rexall and stocked up. Many druggists feared that they would only get the cherry pickers coming into their stores twice a year, but just the opposite happened. Customers came in, took advantage of the quality products, and returned time after time even though it wasn’t Once-Cent-Sale days.
Just the other day I came across an article citing the emergence of modern day One-Cent-Sales. Staples and Office Max are using the one cent sale to attract back to school supply shoppers and it ‘s working. Staples started using the one-cent-sale in 2006 and Office Max picked up on it in 2008.
What’s old in marketing is often new again as companies try to win consumers over during these tough economic times. It’s all about bargains folks and finding creative ways to get your message out there. Whether it be a mystery discount day, an invitation only sale for your best customers, a BOGO event or a one-cent-sale, it’s time to get creative.
Don’t become a Rexall by being lax in your promotions or lose focus on running your business, because there’s a Walgreens right around the corner waiting to grab your customers while you’re falling asleep.