Longs will stay Longs, at least for now
The stores that have become part of Hawaii's cultural scene have been sold.
Among Hawaii's retail icons, few have reached the level of Longs Drug Stores. Even as big-box discount emporiums set up shop here, Longs has largely held on to its customer base and though it wasn't locally owned, it has become lodged firmly in the cultural landscape of the islands.
Longs' familiar red-and-yellow ad pages and bargain books are must-reads in the Sunday newspaper, its outlets gathering places in many neighborhoods.
With that kind of presence, no wonder the company's new owners, CVS Caremark Corp., isn't inclined right now to change the stores' name, formats or inventory. However, it would not be surprising if modifications come over time.
The $2.9 billion purchase will give the Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS the chain's first locations in Hawaii, Nevada, central and northern California, growing markets where it previously had none. In addition to stores, CVS will acquire more than $1 billion in real estate.
Longs opened its first Hawaii store in downtown Honolulu 54 years ago and since then has established a distinct identity with island shoppers, carrying goods attuned to Hawaii tastes, such as rubber slippers, Asian foods, lei needles and locally made products. Many longtime customers keep pace with the cycles of sales, buying marked-down loss leaders to stay within household budgets.
The formula has proven successful, but as when any business changes hands, consumers can expect the new owners to rework blueprints to fit their models. Nostalgia seldom wins the day.
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