The Peoples Drug Store chain will add 25 more stores, expand its optical centers and consider adding dental and hearing aid services this year, company executives said yesterday.
In addition the 382-store chain plans to remodel 118 more stores and have electronic cash registers in all stores by the end of the year, Peoples President Sheldon W. Fantle said at the company's annual stockholders meeting.
The company's annual message dissolved images of the quaint, homey drug stores that once sold only drugs. Instead executives presented futuristic visions of bright, modern stores with dentists drilling teeth or technicians fitting hearing aids. Added to that picture is the fact that Peoples expanded last year into the convenience food market with eight stores selling limited groceries.
Peoples recently contracted with the Southland Corp., which operates the 7-Eleven food stores, to supply packaged foods to these so-called mini-combo stores. One such store is located at Thomas Circle in the District and the other local outlet is in the Sycamore Street store in Arlington.
Fantle said following the meeting that Peoples has 42 stores with optical services and that number could expand to 80 to 100.
Peoples, which operates stores in seven states outside the Washington area, plans to place five of its new stores in suburban Washington -- three in Maryland and two in Virginia. The only local store of 13 closed last year was in the District, Fantle said.
This year "will be another year of progress for our company," added Chairman Adrian C. Israel.
Reviewing the past year, Fantle said that Peoples opened 15 new stores and remodeled 53. A computerized merchandise ordering system was started and 577 electronic cash registers were added to stores. Registers hadn't been replaced in 14 years, Fantle said.
Noting that the "fate (of the stores) is in the hands of minimum wage employes," not Peoples' executives, Fantle said store employes will be trained in an audio-visual program that will teach them fundamentals such as operating cash registers and being helpful and courteous.
According to the company's annual statement, Peoples reported net income of $5.5 million, up 21 percent from the previous year. The average sales per store increased 9.9 percent last year to $1,073,000, the report said.
As a further indication of Peoples' success, Fantle announced that it amended its $24 million loan agreement with five banks to allow more flexibility. The interest rate on the balance was lowered and the term of the loan was extended from 1983 to 1985.
While Fantle beamed, explaining that company net income, profit and sales increased last year, one stockholder asked why executives' salaries were so high. Fantle's salary is $284,582 a year.
"It looks like we're trying to reach General Motors or something," the stockholder said.
High salaries are "my management style," Fantle said. "I don't believe in getting the least expensive employe I can hire."
In response to other questions, Fantle said the company was "pleased" with business during the Christmas holidays. "We were successful because we brought the inventory in earlier," Fantle said.
He noted that the company is "pleased" with the optical center business, but he added: "We're not overly joyed." Fantle said the optical business is in the black "and we're going to stay there."