Comparable-store sales growth again slowed at Walgreen Co. as the drug chain turned in a narrow increase in December.

Walgreens, same-store sales, comparable-store sales, December, comp-store sales, comparable-store sales growth, comparable pharmacy sales, December sales, pharmacy same-store results, front end, prescriptions filled, Express Scripts, pharmacy benefit manager, customer traffic, basket size, Calendar 2011 sales, drug chain, drug store, flu shots administered, Russell Redman

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Walgreens ekes out same-store gain in December

January 5th, 2012

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Comparable-store sales growth again slowed at Walgreen Co. as the drug chain turned in a narrow increase in December.

Walgreens said Thursday same-store sales inched up 0.4% in December, extending a downward monthly growth trend from gains of 1.8% in November, 2.6% in October, 3.1% in September and 5.6% in August.

The company noted that calendar day shifts (one more Saturday and one fewer Wednesday versus a year earlier) negatively impacted comp-store sales in December by 1.1 percentage points.

Front-end same-store sales edged up 0.6% in December. Customer traffic in comparable stores dipped by 0.6 percentage point, while basket size ws up 1.2%.

Meanwhile, comparable pharmacy sales in December were nearly flat, rising just 0.2%. Walgreens said pharmacy same-store results were negatively impacted by calendar day shifts (1.9 percentage points), generic drug introductions in the last 12 months (1.9 percentage points) and a lower incidence of cough, cold and flu (1.8 percentage points).

Prescriptions filled at comparable stores fell by 0.6 percentage point in December, reflecting negative impacts from calendar day shifts (1.9 percentage points) and lower incidence of flu (1.5 percentage points), the retailer reported.

Walgreens also said its contract impasse with Express Scripts Inc. negatively impacted comparable prescriptions filled in December by about 1.5 percentage points, based on prescription transfers and other trend analysis of prescriptions managed by the pharmacy benefit manager.

Total prescriptions filled were flat in December versus a year ago, while flu shots administered at pharmacies and Take Care Clinics season-to-date were 5.3 million versus 6 million last year.

Overall December sales came in at $6.98 billion, up 2.7% from $6.8 billion a year earlier. Revenue rose 1.4% in the front end and 2% in the pharmacy during the month, Walgreens said.

Calendar 2011 sales totaled $73.18 billion, representing a gain of 6.3% from $68.86 billion in 2010.

During December, Walgreens opened nine stores (including one relocation), acquired one store and closed two locations. The chain said that as of Dec. 31, it operated 7,818 drug stores, 163 more than a year ago, including 24 stores acquired over the last 12 months.