November 4, 2008 / 2:31 PM / 11 years ago

Walgreen October same-store sales rise 2 percent

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Walgreen Co WAG.N said on Tuesday that October sales at stores open a least a year rose 2 percent, slightly less than the 2.2 percent increase it reported last week, before the month had ended.

The Walgreens sign is pictured at an outlet in Westminster, Colorado October 30, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The company’s shares rose 2 percent in morning trading after falling 3.3 percent on Monday.

Pharmacy same-store sales rose 2.8 percent, Walgreen said. Last week, the company said pharmacy same-store sales rose 3.4 percent through October 28.

Walgreen said generic drug introductions in the past year cut its pharmacy same-store sales by 2.2 percentage points. Generic drugs cost less, reducing sales figures, but are more profitable for drugstores.

The number of prescriptions filled at Walgreen stores open at least a year decreased 0.4 percent, hurt by the switch of Zyrtec allergy medication from a prescription drug to one that is sold over the counter. Still, that switch helped boost sales of general merchandise.

Walgreen said calendar shifts would pressure its comparable prescriptions filled during November. The company’s shoppers tend to fill more prescriptions on weekdays than on weekends. The current month loses a Thursday and Friday while gaining a Saturday and Sunday when compared with November 2007.

Same-store sales of general merchandise, or sales in the front end of the stores, increased 0.4 percent, as consumers scooped up Halloween candy and other items at the end of the month. Last week, Walgreen said front-end same-store sales were flat through October 28, due in part to weak sales of decorative Halloween items, while items like food sold well.

Total sales rose 6.8 percent to $5.16 billion, with pharmacy sales accounting for 66.5 percent.

Walgreen and its rivals do not report same-store sales for the same periods. CVS Caremark Corp (CVS.N) reports quarterly sales data, while smaller chain Rite Aid Corp (RAD.N) reports monthly results on a different calendar than Walgreen.

Last week, CVS said third-quarter same-store sales rose 3.7 percent, with a 3.8 percent increase in the pharmacy section and a 3.3 percent gain for general merchandise.

Rite Aid said last week its same-store sales for the four weeks ended October 25 rose 2.9 percent, with a 1.9 percent rise for the pharmacy section and a 4.9 percent increase for general merchandise.

Shares of Walgreen were up 50 cents at $25.11 in morning New York Stock Exchange trading.

As of October 31, Walgreen operated 6,544 drugstores, 600 more than a year ago.

Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago and Nicole Maestri in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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