Retail sales growth slowed in September, according to monthly sales figures released by a number of large U.S. retailers.

retail sales, September, U.S. retailers, same-store sales, International Council of Shopping Centers, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Fred's pharmacy, monthly sales results, drug chains, comparable pharmacy sales, pharmacy sales, Express Scripts, front end

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Monthly retail sales decelerate

October 22nd, 2012

NEW YORK – Retail sales growth slowed in September, according to monthly sales figures released by a number of large U.S. retailers.

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, which tracks 22 retailers, sales for the month rose 3.9%, down from a 6% increase in August.

The Thompson Reuters news service, which tracks 19 retailers, reported only a 0.8% increase in same-store sales over September of last year. Results from two of the nation’s largest drug chains were a big reason for the modest increase.

Excluding results from Walgreen Co. and Rite Aid Corp., the two drug chains that report monthly sales results, same-store sales for September were up 3.6%, Thompson Reuters says. That matched analysts’ expectations for the month.

Walgreens reported that its total sales in September were down 7.8% compared with the prior-year period. Same-store sales were down 11.1%. Comparable pharmacy sales declined by 16.1%, while comparable-store front-end sales fell by only 1.5%.

According to Walgreens, this September had one more weekend than in 2011, and one fewer Thursday and Friday. That hurt same-store pharmacy sales by 3.5 percentage points. Generic drug introductions over the past year had a bigger impact, reducing comparable-pharmacy sales by 8.5 percentage points.

Analysts say Walgreens is still feeling the impact of its recently resolved dispute with Express Scripts Inc.

The drug chain started accepting prescriptions from Express Scripts members again on September 15. But since January Walgreens customers covered by Express Scripts had to go elsewhere to get their prescriptions filled, or pay more to get them filled at Walgreens.

The challenge for Walgreens will be to win back those customers who have been filling their prescriptions elsewhere for the better part of a year.

Rite Aid, meanwhile, reported a 0.7% decline in same-store sales for September. Pharmacy same-store sales fell 2.3%.

Total sales at Rite Aid for the four-week period were about $1.9 billion, down 1.5% from the prior-year figure.

Fred’s Inc., which operates pharmacies in many of its 705 discount stores, reported sales of $1.28 billion for the five-week fiscal month, an increase of 1% over the prior-year period. However, same-store sales for the month declined by 3.8%.