Peoples Drug Stores, which last year became the nation's first drug chain to put dentists in some of its outlets, is considering starting a health maintenance program, another industry first, company President Sheldon Fantle said yesterday.
Fantle said the company is considering the idea in light of the growing dental business in five of its outlets and its optical services in a number of other stores. The optical business, which operated at a loss during the first two years, is now showing a profit, Fantle said.
Fantle's remarks, offered in a presentation to analysts at Ferris & Co. Inc., emphasized the growth of the drug store chain, which now runs 483 outlets in 13 states and the District, and is looking for continuing expansion in the coming decade.
In fact, Fantle predicted that the company would operate 1000 units by the end of the current decade and expected sales in excess of $2 billion by 1990. For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 1979, the company reported sales of more than $441 million.
Fantle said Peoples is interested in acquiring "any viable chain." He said "acquisitions are absolutely necessary" if the company is to continue an expansion program.
Last October, the company announced the purchase of the controlling interest of 80 Haag Drug Co. stores, an Indianapolis-based chain. That purchase of 68 percent of Haag, cost Peoples about $5 million, company Vice President Robert Arensmeyer told the Ferris analysts.
Fantle said the company hopes to purchase the remaining shares of Haag within a month.
Calling drug store health care the "wave of the future," Fantle said Peoples already offers customers dental, optical, hearing and convalescent aid services and is already, in effect, a mini health maintenance organization. a
But getting into the business of broadening those services into a fullfledged HMO is under study within the corporate staff, Fantle said. He noted that such a development would be three to five years away and said the fixed-cost health care program could be a logical next step in People's growth.
He also said that the company would open 25 to 30 new stores this year, in addition to remodeling 50 to 100 others.
Fantle said he expected continued growth of the chain's "mini combos," stores offering limited grocery purchases, and said the grocery service would soon be provided in 25 to 30 percent of People's outlets.