Health Mart: Drug Topics' 2007 Chain of the Year

April 16, 2007

In the early 1990s, when Health Mart was owned by regional wholesale distributor FoxMeyer, it was little more than a franchise tallying 800 stores. Now it is a pharmacy franchise logging 1,280 stores. The chain has experienced nearly a 400% growth rate over the past 10 months.

McKesson's stewardship

When McKesson acquired FoxMeyer in 1996, it inherited the Health Mart franchise. Like a builder renovating an existing structure, McKesson began to gut the franchise three years ago. "We redesigned this franchise from the ground up," said Stefan Linn, Health Mart's president. McKesson tapped Interbrand, a leading brand consultancy to redefine the Health Mart brand and logo. Design Forum, an affiliate of Interbrand, was called in to redesign the Health Mart prototype store.

The market response to the Health Mart franchise has been over-whelming. Since July 2006, when Health Mart was relaunched at the McKesson Trade Show in Las Vegas, the franchise has grown by 100 stores a month. "When we started to roll out our program, we bottomed out at 200 stores and those stores were located in an L shape-centrally throughout the United States-from Wisconsin down to the South then over to Florida. That was where FoxMeyer's business was strong. Since then, we have grown very rapidly across the nation. In California we have grown from zero to over 100 stores. We're in over 40 states now," Linn boasted.

Whalley has quickly adopted McKesson's new image. He has installed exterior signage as well as interior drop-off and pickup and pharmacy signs inside the store. The store's walls sport the chain's green and blue accent colors. He has also installed a "department store" for home health care. "The whole look of the store has changed. It's obvious it's a total integrated package of Health Mart. I've gotten very positive comments from customers that they like the colors. It's important for independent pharmacies to have some continuity-not just the Health Mart name, but when someone goes into a Health Mart store, they recognize the continuity from one store to another," said Whalley.