The 1970s: The Times,
They Were A-Changing
The 1970s looked so different from the first days of London Drugs: now its customers sported bell bottoms and shaggy hair. No longer one little store on Main Street; there were 10 stores sprinkled throughout the Lower Mainland. Bigger changes were right around the corner.
In 1975, London Drugs was sold to Daylin Corporation. The next year, that company ran into financial difficulties in the US branch of its business, and decided to put London Drugs up for sale.
Other pharmacy companies were interested, of course, but the chain had caught the eye of entrepreneur Tong Louie. Mr. Louie was the head of the HY Louie Group, owner of a chain of grocery stores in Vancouver. He was intrigued by London Drugs; his advisors were not. Pharmacies and grocery stores were different sorts of businesses, it would not be a good fit for the HY Louie Group. In spite of this, Mr. Louie moved quickly and purchased London Drugs over the Christmas holidays in 1976. The night the deal was finalized, Mr. Louie went for dinner with close friends and family and mentioned casually, as he placed his napkin on his lap, "Today I purchased London Drugs."
With those humble words, Mr. Louie sparked a new period of growth and improvement. With the HY Louie Group at the helm, the new mantra for London Drugs was simple: do it bigger and do it better.
First was the task of expanding, both within BC and, for the first time, beyond the provincial border into Alberta. The first Alberta store opened in Edmonton and was an instant success. In the next ten years, London Drugs tripled its number of stores.
Next was the task of increasing the types of products available in the store. Small kitchen appliances were added to the shelves, as were consumer electronics. A focused effort began to provide quality cosmetics for London Drugs' shoppers. At the time, high-end cosmetics were sold exclusively in department stores. The London Drugs cosmetics department consisted of four or five peg boards of cheap products.
It was a hard sell to convince cosmetic companies to put their products in a drugstore. But one by one, they agreed, and big names like Elizabeth Arden, Shiseido, and Lancôme were added. What began in 1975 is now a full-scale revolution in the way cosmetics are sold. Customers demand value as well as brand names, and London Drugs provides both.
Under the HY Louie Group, an infectious enthusiasm permeated London Drugs. With enthusiasm came big ideas, and one of the biggest was right around the corner: one-hour photofinishing.