NEW YORK — Chain drug retailers posted strong sales gains in November. Overall sales for the trade class advanced 8.3% from results in the prior-year period, while same-store sales increased by 4%.
Walgreen Co. was among the drug chains recording solid results for the month. It reported November sales of nearly $5.4 billion, up 8.7%. Same-store sales rose 3.9%.
The chain’s pharmacy sales increased 9.7% and comparable-pharmacy sales rose 5.7% and would have been higher but for the impact of numerous generic drug introductions over the past 12 months.
The chain drug industry’s strong performance suggests that consumer spending on basic health care needs is holding up, despite the weakness of the overall economy.
Other retailers did not fare as well. Retail Forward estimates that same-store sales at mass retailers (excluding Wal-Mart Stores Inc.) advanced just 0.9% in November. That was much better than the 7.7% decline posted in November 2008 but weaker than the 2.5% increase posted last month.
Apparel retailers in particular were hurt by the impact of warm November weather, which resulted in weak sales of winter clothing. Yet shoppers responded well to post-Thanksgiving promotions.
“Shoppers continue to give signs that they are ready to loosen the grip on their spending plans, but at the same time remain very cautious and deal-focused in their spending,” says Retail Forward senior economist Frank Badillo.
There was other positive economic news, as the nation’s unemployment rate fell to 10% in November, from 10.2% the month before.
The monthly jobs report — the best since the recession began two years ago — suggests that the economy may finally be improving in a way that will boost consumer confidence and retail spending.