Front-end business remained strong for Walgreen Co. in February and led the way in lifting same-store sales for the month.

Walgreens, same-store sales, comparable-store sales, February, front-end, pharmacy, comp-store sales, comparable pharmacy, second quarter, drug store, pharmacy sales, Russell Redman, customer traffic, basket size, Duane Reade, prescriptions filled, comparable stores, fiscal 2011 second quarter

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Comparable-store sales climb at Walgreens

March 3rd, 2011

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Front-end business remained strong for Walgreen Co. in February and led the way in lifting same-store sales for the month.

Walgreens said Thursday that comparable-store sales in February, excluding Duane Reade, were up 3.1% year over year. That result didn't match the robust 6.1% same-store gain in January but continued a rising trend that saw comp-store increases of 2.8% in December and 3.2% in November after a 1.3% falloff in October.

In the front end, same-store sales for February rose 3.8%. Customer traffic in comparable stores increased 1.6%, and basket size grew 2.2%, according to the drug store chain.

Pharmacy same-store sales were up 2.7% in February, reflecting a negative impact of 2.9 percentage points from generic drug introductions, Walgreens said.

Meanwhile, prescriptions filled at comparable stores during February gained 4.3%. The higher incidence of flu positively impacted comparable prescriptions filled by 1.2 percentage points, while fewer flu shots negatively impacted prescriptions filled at comparable stores by 0.2 percentage point, Walgreens reported.

The company estimated that February prescriptions filled were negatively impacted by 0.5 to 1.0 percentage point due to many pharmacy patients filling their prescriptions in late January in advance of the severe winter storm that impacted the Midwest in early February.

Flu shots administered season-to-date at Walgreens pharmacies and Take Care clinics totaled 6.4 million, the company added.

Overall in February, Walgreens' sales were $5.73 billion, up 7.8% from $5.32 billion a year earlier. The retailer said Duane Reade stores contributed 2.7 percentage points to the total sales increase for the month. Revenue rose 10.6% in the front end, including 4.5 percentage points from Duane Reade, and 6.4% in the pharmacy. 

For the fiscal 2011 second quarter, total sales came in at $18.46 billion, a year-over-year gain of 8.7%. Same-store sales for the second quarter climbed 4%. The retailer said front-end comp-store sales for the quarter also rose 4%, while prescriptions filled at comparable stores increased 4.5%.

Calendar year-to-date sales totaled $11.66 billion, up 9.5%. Revenue for the fiscal 2011 first half, meanwhile, rose 7.4% to $35.8 billion.

Walgreens said it opened 22 stores during February, including two relocations, and the company acquired two stores and closed two locations. As of Feb. 28, the retailer operated 7,689 drug stores, 509 more than a year ago, including 288 stores acquired over the last 12 months.

The drug chain also noted Thursday that March sales will be negatively impacted by this year's later Easter, which falls on April 24 this year compared with April 4 last year. The company said it report combined same-store sales for March and April with its April sales results.