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The Drugstore on the Street
commerce; customers; walking; everyday
The company modeled its drugstores on American examples, and frequently sent company executives on fact-finding missions abroad. According to one executive, Anraku Eiji, who went on one such journey in 1917 to Midwestern chain drugstores in the United States such as Rexall and Walgreen's:
When one first steps into a town in America, and walk along its streets, if one asks what kind of shop will most catch your eye, the answer would undoubtedly be a drugstore. Among all the stores in America, I believe there are really no stores better able to attract the attention of passersby -- or, moreover, as approachable -- as drugstores. When wandering the streets, drugstores can bring one to a halt -- one suddenly might want to borrow a light, and without hesitation, one enters under a drugstore's awning. This is because of the structure and location of American drugstore, which are ideally suited for attracting customers -- in other words, it is due to business strategy. That is why the most important point to pay attention to, when opening a drugstore, is the location and structure of the store. And, consequently, it is why they are the most ingenious among stores in America.
Here, Anraku Eiji, describes how customers almost subconsciously enter drugstores. They are often not there to explicitly purchase medicines, but might simply "might want to borrow a light." In this sense, the ideal drugstore appears as if it's not a drugstore at all, but simply as an everyday convenience for potential customers -- a naturalized part of the rhythm of everyday life. Indeed, Anraku's words thus demonstrate how the space of the drugstore shapes modern values of health and hygiene in subtle, nudging ways. Companies like Hoshi served as important vectors for proselytizing such values by creating spaces for consumption that made it seem like customer was always in charge.
Inside an Ideal Drugstore
store clerk; shopkeeper; display; medicine; consumer; general store; convenience; medicinal recommendations
For Hoshi, controlling space not only involved regulating the layout, location, and measurements of display cases and armchairs, but it also involved regulating the actions of each individual store clerk. The goal was to promote a consumer's sense of free choice, which the company purposefully contrasted to older, traditional medicine shops where shopkeepers, seated on tatami mats, would bring medicines individually for the consumer after careful consultation ("za-uri hōshiki"). In a sense, the company endeavored to eliminate the social awkwardness of the uneven interaction between medicine man and consumer, which was especially important if the customer's ailment were, indeed, awkward.
To this end, the company wanted the space of the drugstore, above all else, to promote an open, clean, and refreshing feeling that was enticing and allowed such ease of access that the customer would "unconsciously walk into a drug store without realizing it." Window displays, which delimited the store's boundaries, according to one source, should be designed to catch attention of a passing potential customer and be rotated every week in order to best attract customers' attention.
Drugstores thus appeared as another new space of democratic consumerism: the department store. Indeed, the space of an ideal drugstore provided a variety of functions, many of which seemingly had nothing to do with selling medicines. Drugstores often "appear[ed] no different than a general store (zakkashō)"; they sold a variety of goods such as candy, cosmetics, and tobacco, and they also provided a variety of services, including postal delivery, for public convenience.
Drugstores served, in a sense, as temples of mass consumption, and medicines appeared as products consumed as often -- and maybe as blithely -- as candy. Yet, at the same time, drugstores continued to serve as places where customers went for medical consultation and even treatment. Compared to the traditional layout of a drugstore, the difference was that the customer did not have to seek that help. Clerks, even if they were not licensed pharmacists, required rudimentary medical training to make medicinal recommendations.