business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Sometimes, a legacy can be a good thing.

Like Thrifty ice cream, described in the Los Angeles Times the other day as “a portal to childhood.”

Thrifty ice cream has long been sold by Rite Aid drug stores in Southern California. A mix of “mix of low prices and nostalgia, coupled with a reputation for tastiness — Thrifty ice creams are perennial medal winners at the L.A. County Fair — has fueled generations of devotion.”

The story notes that the ice cream first was sold by Thrifty drug stores from soda fountains; Thrifty has changed hands several times over the years, eventually being scooped up by Rite Aid. “The soda fountains are long gone, but more than 500 Rite Aid stores — primarily in California — contain hand-scooped Thrifty ice cream stations, boasting a selection of the approximately 30 flavors that the El Monte factory makes. Rite Aid also sells the ice cream in tubs and cartons to people who want to eat it at home and to distributors that enable other businesses, in turn, to dish it up for their own customers.”

MNB fave Burt Flickinger, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, calls Thrifty ice cream “the greatest power brand that any drugstore has created anywhere across America. No matter what’s happened to the retailer over the years, the brand has always been a key foundation for the ongoing viability of Rite Aid because of the tremendous loyalty to Thrifty.”

But now, Albertsons is acquiring Rite Aid.

According to the story, the purchase “includes the Thrifty brand and the El Monte factory where the ice cream is made. A Rite Aid executive said Tuesday that Albertsons plans to keep the Thrifty brand alive and will sell the ice cream in its grocery stores. But the two companies did not answer questions about whether the ice cream will continue to be made in El Monte, or whether they might change the tastes and pricing that customers love.”

This, it seems to me, is one of those Eye-Opening cases where effectiveness needs to take precedence over efficiency. I don’t care how much easier or cheaper it might be to make the ice cream differently or elsewhere … this is one of those assets that screams out to be preserved and nurtured and expanded and celebrated.

To do otherwise would be retailing malpractice.
KC's View: