Whatever happened to Eckerd?
Man, even typing that word looks strange. That's how far out of our lives Eckerd Drugstores have fallen. But it wasn't that long ago that they were everywhere! What happened?
Not too long ago, there were two players in the drugstore industry as far as I knew: Walgreens & Eckerd. Then suddenly, as if overnight, Eckerd disappeared, leaving Walgreens, and soon, CVS, as it joined the scene.
Of course, in other parts of the country, a different story was told. When I lived in New York, there was RiteAid and Duane Reade, and Walgreens had a minor presence. But at one time, Eckerd was there as well. Yet today, no Eckerd.
And when I recall Eckerd, people say "oh yeah," because in their minds Eckerd has vanished as well. This isn't Montgomery Ward, a company that was once large, and eventually fell due to their inability to adapt, but still has a presence in business textbooks, and in the minds of those who once shopped there. This is no Washington Mutual, a victim of the financial crisis, whose former customers still remember it fondly. Eckerd? It seems like people have almost completely forgotten the brand, not saddened enough by the loss to bother remembering it unprompted.
And I suspect that's what happened to Eckerd. I suspect Eckerd was the AstroWorld of the drugstore world. Everyone was surprised when they closed, but who went there?
But it hasn't been long enough to justify a collective removal of Eckerd from our public conscious! The company was first split up in 2004, with many stores acquired by CVS, and their mail-order business becoming CVS Caremark. But at this point, Eckerd still existed. It wasn't until 2007 that the remaining thousands of stores were acquired by RiteAid.
2007! A company that was 109 years old disappeared only five years ago, and for most people, it's like they never existed! This is crazy, and yet as above, it makes sense. There was no great vacuum, no overwhelming void when Eckerd disappeared because who cared? It's self-fulfilling: Eckerd isn't important enough to hold a place in our minds, so when it disappears, we don't even notice it's gone.
Today, drugstores of all kinds fill the streets of America, but one fewer than there once was. Though Eckerd is gone, its name will not live in our hearts, its legacy will not hold a place in our memories. It is dead. And its eulogy, housed on the RiteAid website, is fitting for a company so unloved and so easily forgotten: