Eckerd Puts Account in Play

Drugstore chain Eckerd Corp. has sent proposal re quests to five agencies for its estimated $50 million account, now at ja&g advertising in Cincinnati, sources said.

An employee who works in the chain’s marketing department confirmed that Eckerd, a Largo, Fla.-based subsidiary of J.C. Penney, sent out proposal requests to five agencies.

Ja&g, formerly Backley & Gingrich Advertising, won Eckerd’s business in December 2000 without a review. The account was previously handled by Doner, Southfield, Mich.

Ja&g executives could not be reached, and it was not known if the shop was invited to defend the account. Eckerd vice president of marketing Jeffrey Thompson could not be reached for comment.

At that time, agency co-president Sam Gingrich said Eckerd would become the shop’s largest client, doubling billings to an estimated $50 million.

The win was credited to the agency’s long-standing relationship with “key decision makers” at the retailer. CEO Wayne Harris, who arrived at Eckerd several months before ja&g won the account, previously held various management positions at Kroger Co., a key ja&g client.

Gingrich and agency co-president Steve Jagers are both former advertising executives with Kroger.

The agency opened an office in St. Petersburg, Fla., near Eckerd’s headquarters in January 2001.

The agency has 50 employees, eight of whom work in the Florida office, according to an agency representative. It was not known how many employees work on the account.

Eckerd operates approximately 2,650 stores in 20 states, mostly in the Northeast, Southeast and Southwest. Eckerd’s competitors in clude CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid Drugstores and Walgreens Stores. The bulk of the store’s sales are through its pharmacies.

J.C. Penney executives said earlier this year they have been considering whether to sell the chain sometime in the next few years. Eckerd claims about $13 billion in sales and, after closing 300 stores two years ago, is planning to expand next year into Arizona.

Eckerd’s media spending has been on the upswing. Measured media expenditures last year totaled about $50 million, according to CMR. The chain spent $40 million on media in the first seven months of this year, per CMR.