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Walgreens’ January sales up 9.6 percent

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DEERFIELD, Ill. The ongoing replacement of some branded pharmaceuticals with recently introduced, lower-priced generic drugs, combined with a still-sluggish flu sales season, continued to drain some of the life out of Walgreen Co.’s sales momentum in January, but results for the month did show a firming trend in same-store sales.

Walgreens reported January sales of $4.96 billion, an increase of 9.6 percent over the same month last year. Sales in comparable stores rose 3.8 percent, with same-store front-end sales rising 3.1 percent.

January pharmacy sales were up 10 percent companywide and 4.2 percent on a same-store basis, Walgreens reported, with total prescriptions filled at comparable stores increasing 2.9 percent. The gains were modest, by Walgreens’ standards, but an improvement over December results, when total sales rose just 7.8 percent over December of 2006, to $5.51 billion, and same-store sales were up a paltry 2.6 percent.

Walgreens is blaming the same factors in January that dogged its year-end results: the substitution of more higher-priced brand-name drugs for low-cost generics at the prescription counter and a slow sales season for flu products and cough-cold medications. “Comparable-pharmacy sales were negatively impacted by 4.2 percentage points due to generic drug introductions in the last 12 months,” the company reported today.

“Calendar day shifts accounted for a negative impact of 0.5 percentage points on comparable pharmacy sales,” Walgreens noted. “The company saw some improvement from December in cough and cold product sales, but the category continues to show weakness compared to a year ago. Impacting pharmacy sales was a milder flu season, which hurt the number of prescriptions filled by 1.8 percentage points.”

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