Rexall was the name of a chain of North American drugstores, as well as the name of their store-branded products. Today it is the name of over-the-counter drugs and drugstores in Canada and health supplements in the United States.
Justin Whitlock Dart, heir to the Walgreen's drugstore chain, took control of Boston-based United Drug Company in 1943. The chain operated under the Liggett, Owl, Sonta, and Rexall brands, which Dart rebranded under the Rexall name.
Rexall gained national exposure through its sponsorship of two famous classic American radio programs of the 1940s and 1950's: Amos and Andy and The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. Both shows were often opened by an advertisement from an announcer portraying "your Rexall family druggist," and included the catch phrase "Good health to all from Rexall." They also sponsored the Jimmy Durante Show and there are references by character Mr. Peavey in some of the Great Gildersleeve radio shows.
In 1946, United-Rexall Drug Inc. purchased the Renfro chain in Texas. It also launched the Owl Superstores chain. In 1958, the Rexall Drug Company was the largest U.S. drug store franchise, with 11,158 stores (for comparison, there are less than 12,000 McDonald's restaurants in the U.S. today). Time Magazine noted that 2/3 of its stores were in areas where 1/3 of the population lived. However, this comprised more than 20% of all drug stores in the United States.
Dart sold his stake in Rexall in 1978. Dart had acquired stakes in West Bend, Duracell, Hobart, Tupperware, Ralph Wilson Plastics, and Archer Glass, which were collectively known as Dart Industries (later Premark International).
By the late '50s, Rexall's business model of unitary franchised stores, with each store owned independently by the local pharmacist, was already coming under attack by the discount chains, such as Thrift Drug and Eckerds. These well-financed corporate entities were able to drive down costs by means of block purchasing, and were focused on growth. By 1977, the value of the Rexall business had deteriorated to the point that it was sold to private investors for $16 million. The investors divested the company owned stores, though existing franchise retailers were able to keep the Rexall name. However, these tended to be weaker stores, and very few kept the name as time progressed. The company did continue to distribute vitamins, health foods, and plastic items.
Sundown, a maker of primarily suntan lotions, founded in 1976 by Carl DeSantis, marketed via mail-order, on store shelves, and other venues, including multi-level marketing. Sundown acquired the Rexall trademark in 1985 and continued to produce nutritional supplements and remedies under the new name Rexall-Sundown, with no relationship to the remaining chain of Rexall drugstores, nor to the Canadian maker of medicines and sundries.
As Rexall-Sundown, the company's market share grew rapidly, with revenues from the flagship product Bios Life leading all sales. RXSD went public in 1997 on the NASDAQ. It was acquired for US$1.8 billion in May 2000 by Royal Numico, a Netherlands-based company which, at that time, also owned General Nutrition Centers (GNC chainstores) and Met-Rx, among other holdings.
Numico split up the Rexall divisions and divested them in 2003, selling the name Rexall-Sundown to NBTY, a US vitamin company, and the Unicity Network division to Activated Holdings, a privately held company.
In Canada, Rexall maintained a better reputation than it had in the United States. The Rexall family of pharmacies are operated by Katz Group Canada, and includes 1,100 stores across Canada. They are:
Katz Group Canada Ltd.'s exclusive private label brand, Rexall Brand, is available at any Rexall family of pharmacies location, as well as its national mail order pharmacy, Meditrust Pharmacy, making Rexall Brand one of the most accessible health care brands in Canada.