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Walgreens same-store sales have softer August

03-Sep-2008: Walgreen Inc. said sales at stores open at least one year rose only 0.9 percent in August compared with the year-ago a month, a soft performance that the Deerfield-based drugstore chain attributed in part to an unfavorable calendar-day sequence.

Walgreen said overall August sales rose 6 percent to $4.63 billion, but the bulk of that expansion can be traced to the fact that the expansion-minded company had 6,941 stores open at the end of last month, 561 more than it had a year ago.

On a "comparable-store" basis, a performance measure which excludes the skewing input from new stores by comparing sales at stores open at least 12 months, sales were up 0.9 percent. Comparable-store pharmacy sales dropped by 0.5 percent, the company said, while comparable "front-end" sales -- non-pharmacy products such as cosmetics and food -- rose 3.5 percent.

Walgreen noted that its latest August results were squeezed because it had two fewer week days than the year-ago month; pharmacy patients generally fill more prescriptions during the week than they do on weekends, the company noted.

The calendar shift trimmed comp-store pharmacy sales by 3.3 percentage points, the company said, and reduced total sales by 2.3 percentage points.

The situation will reverse in September, the company emphasized: September of 2008 will have two more weekdays than the year-ago month did.

In addition, Walgreen suggested Wednesday that earnings will be under pressure by price cuts it implemented to move product.

"Promotional programs drove solid sales and customer traffic," the company said, but "these aggressive promotions will negatively impact front-end margins in the quarter."

Pharmacy sales represented 65.3 percent of total sales last month, the company said, and the remaining 34.7 percent comes from non-pharmaceutical product sales.

Source: Chicago Tribune, United States

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