Discount general merchandise chain Fred's Inc. is looking to its pharmacy to help spur business in the new year.

Fred's Inc., general merchandise chain, pharmacy, specialty pharmacy, specialty drugs, clinical services, Bruce Efird, pharmacy acquisitions, pharmacy growth, Xpress pharmacy

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Fred's eyes pharmacy growth in 2013

January 4th, 2013

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Discount general merchandise chain Fred's Inc. is looking to its pharmacy to help spur business in the new year.

In reporting December same-store sales Thursday, Fred's chief executive officer Bruce Efird pointed to specialty pharmacy and clinical services as areas for expansion.

"Looking ahead, we begin 2013 with many new programs and initiatives designed to improve customer traffic," Efird said in a statement. "We will accelerate pharmacy growth through expanded programs in specialty drugs and clinical services, as well as by increasing the pace of pharmacy acquisitions."

He also cited discount tobacco programs, an expanded Hometown Auto and Hardware program, and a larger seasonal assortment as among the key growth vehicles for 2013 in general merchandise.

"We expect that 2013 will be a springboard year for Fred's with the expansion of specialty drugs and clinical services, accelerated pharmacy acquisitions, new auto and hardware product initiatives, the rollout of a smaller drug and dollar store concept, and the beginning of the relocation of approximately 125 stores," Efird added. "Our team is confident these programs will get Fred's back to positive comparable sales and traffic in the upcoming year."

During the month, Fred's opened four new stores and one Xpress pharmacy and closed two Xpress pharmacy locations. Overall, the chain has 712 discount general merchandise stores, including about 320 pharmacy locations.

For the five weeks ended Dec. 29, Fred's saw same-store sales decline 4.2% year over year. Total sales were down 1% to $209.9 million for the month.

"December sales did not meet our expectations as customers limited their purchases of discretionary and weather-related merchandise again this month," Efird stated. "The economic headwinds around the holidays overshadowed some of the positive aspects of the company's performance in December, like the successful completion of our layaway sales program and continued script improvement in our pharmacy department."

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