It all started in the fall of 1993 when four store owners asked former chain store executive Ed Heckman to meet with them. All four owners purchased from national wholesaler FoxMeyer and participated in their Health Mart franchise program. Their purpose was to ask Heckman “do chains buy better than independents?” Heckman’s answer of course was “Yes.” That contradicted FoxMeyer’s claim that they gave their 400+ Health Mart stores chain prices.
Ed explained that chains have a defined book of business—number of stores, purchase volume—and they can commit that book of business to a vendor. Because they know exactly how much business will be won, vendors can sharpen their pencils. But with buying groups vendors are never sure how much or how little business they will gain—plus they must sell the deal one-by-one to every store in the buying group.
The second owner’s question was, “could Heckman put together a chain program for independent pharmacies?” Ed Heckman came back with a plan and in April 1994, the Health Mart owners decided to fund a six month trial to see if the compliant pharmacy chain concept would work. That was the start of Great Lakes Pharmacies and 18 years later the history of success speaks for itself. Over time the GLP reach spread to pharmacies in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio.