Ushering in the Computer Age
In 1983, Wynne Powell, was convinced that the same people who bought cameras and toasters from London Drugs would one day want to buy computers too.
It was a far-fetched idea. In 1983, letters were typed on electric typewriters, spelling errors fixed with correcting tape, and mail went out with a sealed envelope and a stamp. There were rumblings of new developments in Silicon Valley that were making computers smaller and more affordable. Nevertheless, it seemed like a futuristic pipe dream that there could ever be a mass market for personal computers.
With a suitcase full of cash, Mr. Powell travelled to Silicon Valley to convince computer manufacturers to let London Drugs carry their merchandise.
Silicon Valley did not respond with enthusiasm. Computers were sold by specialty computer consultants, they told him, definitely not drugstores. He was shut out by the big manufacturers, but he managed to procure a few obscure brands and when he arrived back in Canada, the London Drugs computer department was born in four stores: Richmond, Broadway, Surrey, and North Vancouver.
Over the years, London Drugs chipped away at the big manufacturers, eventually convincing the likes of Microsoft, AST, and HP to sell directly to London Drugs.
From the beginning, London Drugs was a different sort of computer store, hiring techies instead of sales people to staff the department. The emphasis was to provide an educated resource to the customer, not simply a quick sell.
This resource has become increasingly important as computers become more complex. London Drugs decided to formalize the role of in-store technicians. Now there would be a designated technician in every store with threshold qualifications. London Drugs chose the internationally recognized Computer Technology Industry Association and its A+ Certified status for every technician in every London Drugs store.
In the 1990s, London Drugs was established as a computer retailer, a photofinishing juggernaut, and a great place to buy blenders and cameras. Once again, though, the heart of the business remained the pharmacy, and a revolutionary approach to patient care was developing.