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Susan Kang Sunderland

Longs Drugs – Makiki’s New Neighborhood Pharmacy

Longs Drugs celebrates its 60th anniversary in Hawaii by opening its 54th store, this one located across from Mckinley High School

It’s Longs Drugs’ kanreki, 60th anniversary. Tradition calls for a celebration to observe a rite of passage and rebirth. It also is a time of reflection.

Seems fitting that the store synonymous with island living would commemorate the occasion with the opening of its 54th outlet and new urban Honolulu location.

That’s exactly what happened May 18 at 1030 S. King St., across from McKinley High School. Local residents, especially those in Makiki, flocked to the sparkling new outlet with smiles on their faces and that familiar red-and-yellow ad insert in hand.

Whether you were at the new location or elsewhere in Longs’ various neighborhoods, it’s likely you started the day looking through the Sunday paper for the Longs ad.

How does a retailer retain such strong loyalty? How does a brand blend so seamlessly into our lives? Why is it that when you go to Longs for one item you walk out with five?

The Longs lure comes from years of cultivating customer rapport.

It’s no wonder that when Longs Drugs was purchased in 2008 by CVS Caremark Corporation, the new owners chose to keep the Longs identity and traditions in Hawaii. Its stores’ signs and collateral retain the distinctive red script logo that spells Longs.

Even as Mainland chains, such as Walmart and Walgreens, have entered the market, Longs’ light shines brightly. The competition has certainly intensified, but Longs retains a homegrown cache.

“Longs has been a shopping tradition in the Islands since 1954, and we are committed to helping the people of Hawaii on their path to better health,” says Michael DeAngelis, CVS director of public relations.

Keeping a familiar identity as well as many longtime employees is a bridge to newage retailing. It is a wise acquisition strategy for Hawaii, and despite naysayers who shun change of any kind, CVS is here to stay no matter what you call it.

One resident gives this analogy. “Longs is like our trusty flip phone: sturdy, familiar and gets the job done. But life and the demands of life require that we get smart-phones. Once you make the switch, you can’t imagine how you would live without it,” he says.

Harold F. Morse, general manager of Longs Hawaii operations, talks about “reinventing the pharmacy by providing accessible and personalized expertise.”

“Our stores are becoming more health care-focused, as evidenced by our decision to end the sale of tobacco products by Oct. 1,” he says.

Features such as drive-through pharmacies, prescription benefits management programs and in-store clinics add to the evolution that is taking place.

Not just a prescription dispenser, the new age pharmacy is a partnership in maintaining one’s well-being.

It’s reflective of island values that equate loyalty with respect.

Small Kid Time

Longs Drugs has been part of the local landscape since 1954, with its first location at bustling Hotel and Bishop streets in downtown Honolulu. It was a hit with customers from the start.

It existed at a time when retail commerce centered on Fort Street where shoppers found Woolworth, Kress and the Ritz stores. Time marched on as those merchants, along with Hartfield’s, Thayer Piano and the Hub Men’s Store, disappeared from Honolulu’s miracle mile.

But Longs endures and still occupies the spot where it originated. It’s a cornerstone in our community in more ways than one.

As the Honolulu Star-Advertiser put it in a retrospective, “Longs has been successful at local product sourcing, which means it’s a store where residents can find crack seed, kukui nut lei, gift bags, cans of Spam, and slipper mops as well as drugstore items.”

To which we would add bamboo uku combs, packages of opai (dried shrimp), and bags of poi at the checkout counter. Try finding that at a Mainland drugstore.

Competitive Landscape

The drugstore landscape changed in 2008 when Rhode Island-based CVS Caremark Corporation purchased California-based Longs Drugs, creating the nation’s second-largest chain. The first CVS store selling health and beauty products was founded in Lowell, Mass., by brothers Stanley and Sidney Goldstein and partner Ralph Hoagland. CVS stands for Consumer Value Stores.

Today there are 7,600 CVS/pharmacy and Longs Drugs stores in the U.S. that employ 200,000 workers in 45 states, including 2,800 in Hawaii. CVS Caremark fills more than 700 million prescriptions annually, or approximately 21 percent of the U.S. retail pharmacy market. It is America’s leading operator of in-store health clinics at 800 locations in 28 states, including seven MinuteClinics in Hawaii, with five more slated to open next year.

Hawaii’s newest Longs store is a 24,000-square-foot, 24-hour operation in the Makiki urban core. According to Morse, the store has “expanded beauty offerings, a lower profile and cut through aisles so our customers can navigate easily, with expanded seasonal offerings and grocery items.”

Sounds like the perfect profile for the area’s demographic makeup of working couples, senior residents and multi-generational families.

Store manager is Phyllis Delos Santos, a 24-year veteran of Longs who once managed the Haleiwa outlet and served as training store manager.

New-age CVS

“We are excited this year to be introducing CVS/pharmacy’s ExtraCare program to our Longs stores,” says Morse, a retail executive of 35 years, 10 of which have been with Longs/CVS. “Enrollment is free at any Longs Drugs store.”

ExtraCare is the nation’s largest retail savings and rewards program with more than 70 million active member households. A bar-coded card is scanned at checkout to earn points and rewards for purchasers. It also is used to qualify for advertised sale prices.

Each quarter, members earn rewards entitling them to dollars off their next purchase. This reporter has redeemed from 50 cents to $5 in the program.

One also can personalize their ExtraCare purchases with discount coupons and exclusive deals. A red ATM-like coupon center in stores allows you to print out these offerings by inserting your scan card or phone number.

Retail Rx

The homegrown charm of the corner drugstore is fabled. When one “makes Longs a part of your day,” a bond is created that defies advertising and marketing hype. The neighborhood drugstore is really a slice of Americana and island life. From picking up school supplies to health care essentials, it’s always been there for us. We depend on its convenience, country-store ambiance and product assortment.

Even as technology and electronic marketing change the modern shopping experience, time-honored trust and reliability between customer and storekeeper never fade.

It’s the best prescription for prosperity.

JOIN THE CELEBRATION!

It’s Longs Drugs’ 60TH ANNIVERSARY, BUT YOU GET THE GIFTS.

Check for anniversary specials May through August. Enter free drawings for Las Vegas and Neighbor Island trips sponsored by Barefoot Winery, Maybelline and Aloha Gourmet, as well as a $1,000 Hawaiian Airlines Visa card from Procter & Gamble. Look for daily and weekly HOT prices along with individual store “Wednesday Mystery Items” to create even more excitement.

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