150 Years of American Pharmacy: The merchandising development of the decade

February 5, 2007

Hailed as the "most sensational merchandising development since the open display," the Cosmetic Bar, a freestanding display of cosmetics and toiletries, was unveiled by Drug Topics in February 1940. In a full-page cover story, the magazine introduced a new innovation that would boost cosmetic sales 147%.

Editor's note: Throughout 2007, this column, which takes a look at some of the most important moments in the history of pharmacy, will appear in each issue as part of our sesquicentennial celebration. Tied with this column is a pharmacy history contest, which we are urging all readers to participate in. Monthly questions based on this column will be posted on the Drug Topics anniversary microsite. Contestants are eligible to win a Visa gift card of $250. For details about the contest, go to http://www.drugtopics.com/.

Dan Rennick, Drug Topics' editorial director, took a hands-on approach to the Cosmetic Bar, carefully measuring the most common cosmetics then for sale in most pharmacies to create a custom-designed unit. Drug Topics tested the Cosmetic Bar at three community pharmacies in New York, Chicago, and Little Rock, Ark. The results, the magazine reported, were overwhelmingly positive.

The innovation was part of a larger transformation in retail pharmacy as more and more products came out from behind the counter and clerks and cashiers replaced pharmacists as the primary store employees. In a January 1940 article, the magazine told pharmacists they could boost sales by 28% by remodeling and especially "modernizing" their stores. Adding electric lights, freezers for ice cream, new soda fountains, and even air-conditioning were especially beneficial steps the pharmacist could take to boost overall profitability. "A modern community demands a modern drugstore," Rennick insisted, and he pledged that Drug Topics would lead pharmacies into the modern era.