Walgreen Co. saw same-store sales edge up in November despite a mild flu season impacting pharmacy business.

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Same-store sales rise in November at Walgreens

December 4th, 2013

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreen Co. saw same-store sales edge up in November despite a mild flu season impacting pharmacy business.

Walgreens said Wednesday that comparable-store sales rose 3.2% in November, reflecting negative impacts of 1.5 percentage points from calendar day shifts (one extra Saturday and one fewer Thursday) and 0.6 percentage point from introductions of new generic drugs, which carry lower price points but higher margins. The drug chain's comp-store sales were up 5.8% in October.

In the front end, same-store sales gained 1.9% for November. Customer traffic in comparable stores increased 0.8%, the second straight month that traffic was up, and basket size grew 1.1%.

"A meaningful increase versus prior quarters in promotional investment contributed to the improvement in traffic and comparable-store front-end sales for November and throughout the quarter," Walgreens stated.

Comparable pharmacy sales in November climbed 4% and increased by a calendar day-shift adjusted 6.3%, the company said. Calendar day-shift adjusted comparable pharmacy sales were negatively impacted by 1 percentage point from new generics but got a lift of 0.2 percentage point from more flu shots versus last year.

Comp-store prescription count rose 1.4% for November and gained 3.7% on a calendar day-shift adjusted basis. Walgreens said calendar shifts negatively impacted prescriptions filled at comparable stores by 2.3 percentage points.

The company noted that script count, on a comp-store basis, reflected a positive impact of 0.4 percentage point from more flu shots compared with a year ago and a negative impact of 0.7 percentage point because of what it called the weakest start to the flu season in six years.

Still, flu shots administered at pharmacies and clinics season to date topped 6.1 million, compared with almost 4.6 million a year earlier.

On the revenue side, overall November sales came in at $6.07 billion, up 4.1% from $5.83 billion a year ago. Sales grew 3.2% in the front end and 4.7% in the pharmacy. For the month, pharmacy sales represented 63.5% of total revenue.

Walgreens also reported that sales for the fiscal 2014 first quarter ended Nov. 30 increased 6% year over year to $18.35 billion. Same-store sales in the quarter advanced 5.5%, including gains of 2.2% in the front end and 7.5% in the pharmacy. Prescriptions filled at comparable stores were up 5.6%.

For the calendar year to date, sales totaled $66.54 billion, a gain of 4.3% compared with the prior-year period.

Walgreens said it opened 22 stores during November, including nine relocations, and acquired a net total of 55 stores and closed one store.

As of Nov. 30, Walgreens operated 8,197 drug stores, 140 more than a year earlier, including 59 net stores acquired over the last 12 months.