Exclusive: Walgreen CEO confident despite consumer angst
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Continued caution from consumers has pressured Walgreen Co's sales, but Chief Executive Greg Wasson is pleased with how his company stacks up against CVS Caremark Corp as the rival drugstores work on evolving into larger healthcare entities.
"We are certainly feeling the effect of the economy," Wasson, who became Walgreen's CEO a year ago, said in an interview on Tuesday.
Walgreen's monthly sales at stores open at least a year fell in December and January, disappointing investors who had anticipated increases. Meanwhile, CVS said on Monday that its same-store sales rose 4.9 percent during the last quarter of 2009.
"When I look at the October-November-December period that they just reported, and our October-November-December period, I feel good," Wasson said of his company's performance in general merchandise and the pharmacy segment.
Bringing Walgreen's same-store sales back into positive territory will depend, in large part, on the economy, Wasson said.
One strategy that could help drive sales is a loyalty card. Walgreen plans to test different loyalty strategies, all including cards at first, in three to four unnamed markets this spring, he said.
CVS has seen success with its ExtraCare loyalty card program, which has millions of members.
(Reporting by Jessica Wohl, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)