By Edward Cone  |  Posted 2003-06-01 Print this article Print

Retailing is getting cutthroat. In major metropolitan areas, direct rivals are opening up shop across the street, daring the other to blink and pull up stakes. Among neighborhood pharmacy chains, Eckerd is now in a fight for its life, as Walgreens threate

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Corner-to-Corner Competitors

The Coconut Creek Eckerd is clean, bright and new, opened just last May. But on an April morning the Walgreens across the street was visibly busier. Store manager Kathleen Welch doubts technology accounts for the difference. If anything, she blames city landscaping restrictions that make the store hard to see from the street. She looks forward to Quantum Leap, but suspects that there will be times when items are out of stock anyway. The important thing is to provide the kind of service that will help customers forgive an occasional lapse, she says.

One type of service customers demand is convenience, and Eckerd's insourcing strategy is meant to help pay for more stores. As for the technology itself, Petersen is focused on things that can help Welch keep her customers happy.

"If we're convenient and they're convenient, more than likely what's going to appeal to people is customer service," he says. If firing its outsourcer can put happier customers in more stores, then Eckerd's big gamble will have paid off.

Senior Writer and author of the Know It All blog

Ed Cone has worked as a contributing editor at Wired, a staff writer at Forbes, a senior writer for Ziff Davis with Baseline and Interactive Week, and as a freelancer based in Paris and then North Carolina for a wide variety of magazines and papers including the International Herald Tribune, Texas Monthly, and Playboy. He writes an opinion column in his hometown paper, the Greensboro News & Record, and publishes the semi-popular EdCone.com weblog. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lisa, two kids, and a dog.

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