Customers at three local Big B drug stores will have to drive a little farther down the street for their next prescription. That's because new owner Revco DS Inc. has decided to close the stores along with 21 others across Georgia.
Revco bought out the 400-store Big B chain in 1996. After this round of closings, Revco will continue to operate 141 former Big B stores in Georgia, and with original Revco stores, operate 313 total stores in the state, including 16 in metropolitan Augusta.
Closing are stores at 4020 Peach Orchard Road, 4020 Washington Road, Martinez, and 2512 Tobacco Road, Hephzibah. The company plans to transfer customer prescription records to neighboring stores.
By the middle of March, every Big B store will be connected to Revco's computer network of prescription records. The network will allow customers to use those records for refills at any store in the chain.
Company executives decided to close the stores because they were not profitable enough. The decision had nothing to do with on-going negotiations with CVS Corp. drugstore chain about a merger, according to Thomas G. Dingledy, director of public relations for Revco.
"We are constantly reviewing the operation of each store in the chain. If it makes sense to consolidate further, we will," Mr. Dingledy said. "There should be little, if any, loss of employment because of the number of stores we operate in Georgia. It would be incorrect to characterize this as a massive layoff."
Most of the 36 or so local employees have already been offered jobs, filling vacancies at other Revco stores. Those leaving the company will get an undisclosed severance package, Mr. Dingledy said.
Work began earlier this month refurbishing the remaining Big B stores to resemble the other Revco stores.
If Revco and CVS agree to merge, additional store closings would not be likely because the two chains have few stores in the same states. CVS has most of its stores in the Northeast while Revco's stores are concentrated in the Southeast.
"Consolidation is certainly likely to be part of chain community pharmacy in the future," said Phillip Schneider, director of public relations for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. "It's because the industry is thought to have some very strong fundamentals which makes it attractive to investors."
Mr. Schneider noted that drug stores nationwide had a 9 percent increase in sales last year, one of the highest of any retail segment. The aging population's greater need for drugs, and medical treatments that focus more on early treatment, contribute to the trend, he said.
The following Big B stores closing are listed, along with the store to which prescriptions will be transferred and the closing date of the store: