Growth in pharmacy business, fueled by the severe flu season, helped boost same-store sales at Walgreen Co. in January.

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Walgreens sees same-store sales gain in January

February 5th, 2013

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Growth in pharmacy business, fueled by the severe flu season, helped boost same-store sales at Walgreen Co. in January.

Walgreens said Tuesday that comparable-store sales rose 3.7% in January, with calendar day shifts positively impacting results by 1.3 percentage points and introductions of lower-priced generic drugs negatively impacting comp-store sales by 3.9 percentage points.

The increase January marked an improvement from same-store sales drop of 6.1% in December and ended a year of monthly same-store declines for Walgreens. The chain had last reported a monthly same-store sales gain in December 2011, when results were up 0.4%.

For January 2013, same-store sales in the front end dipped 0.4%. Walgreens said customer traffic fell 2.8%, though basket size grew 2.4%.

Comparable pharmacy sales climbed 6.2% in January, with calendar day shifts lifting results by 2 percentage points. On a day-fall adjusted basis, pharmacy same-store sales were up 4.2%. Walgreens noted that day-fall adjusted comparable pharmacy sales were negatively impacted by 6 percentage points from new generics.

Prescriptions count at comparable stores jumped 13.6% in January and was up 11.6% on a day-fall adjusted basis. Calendar day shifts positively impacted prescriptions filled in comparable stores by 2 percentage points. Day-fall adjusted prescriptions filled at comparable stores got lifts of 2.3 percentage points from a higher incidence of flu and 2 percentage points from more flu shots administered, Walgreens said.

Flu shots administered at pharmacies and clinics season-to-date came in at nearly 6.9 million, compared with 5.5 million last year.

Walgreens added that the percentage of Express Scripts customers filling prescriptions in its pharmacies continued to rise during January. In mid-September, the drug chain rejoined the Express Scripts pharmacy network after exiting it because of a contract dispute.

Overall in January, Walgreens' sales totaled $6.15 billion, up 6.3% from $5.78 billion a year earlier. Front-end sales increased 1.3%, and pharmacy sales rose 8.7% for the month. The company said pharmacy sales represented 65% of total January sales.

Sales for the first five months of fiscal 2013 were down 2.4% to $30.18 billion from $30.93 billion in the year-ago period.

Walgreens said it opened nine stores during January (including two relocations), acquired two stores and closed two stores. As of Jan. 31, the retailer operated 8,067 drug stores, 237 more than a year ago, including a net of 106 stores acquired over the last 12 months.