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Hurricane helps Rite Aid monthly sales

Results in line with analyst's forecast

CAMP HILL, Pa. – Rite Aid got a boost in its monthly same-store sales from Hurricane Sandy, the company said Thursday.

Announcing its October sales results, the retail pharmacy chain said same-store sales decreased by 1.1%. Front-end comps increased by 1.5%, while pharmacy comps decreased by 2.3%, including a negative effect of 971 basis points from new generic introductions; same-store prescription count increased by 4.7%.

Of the increase in front-end comps 1.1% came from pre-store sales associated with Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, but temporary store closures are expected to have a negative effect on November sales, the company said. Meanwhile, 0.2% of the increase in same-store script count was also from Hurricane Sandy. The company had 188 stores closed or operating with no power Wednesday night, compared with 790 during the height of the storm on Monday night.

The results are in line with predictions made by some analysts. Credit Suisse analyst Ed Kelly wrote in a note Wednesday that front-end sales for retail pharmacies would likely see an increase due to people stocking up on items ahead of the storm. “While drug stores' front-end sales are likely to continue to be pressured by channel shifting to value-oriented players and aggressive growth of small-box formats like dollar stores, we believe October sales should be better than recent trends,” Kelly wrote. “Hurricane Sandy likely provided a boost to sales, as consumers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic stocked up for this catastrophic event.”

Total drugstore sales for the four-week period decreased by 1.8% to $1.918 billion, compared with $1.954 billion in October 2011.

For the year to date, comps increased by 0.7%, including a 2.1% increase in front-end comps and a 0.1% increase in pharmacy comps. Total sales for the 34-week period were flat over the year before, at $16.463, compared with $16.467 during the same period last year.

The Rite Aid Foundation, the company's charitable arm, donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross Wednesday to assist with storm relief efforts. 

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