January retail pharmacy comparable sales to be challenged by tough Rx comparisons, weak economy

NEW YORK — Tough comparisons against a robust flu season last year and the continued lackluster economy may put a chill in pharmacy comps for the month of January, wrote Credit Suisse research analyst Ed Kelly in a note published Wednesday. 

"We believe front-end drug store sales were challenged in January, as a difficult comparison versus the peak of last year's epic flu season, continued consumer weakness, competitive pressures and a lack of inflation likely affected results," he wrote. "[And] we believe script growth for the chain drug stores was weak in January, as the prior year materially benefitted from heightened levels of flu prescriptions and shots. While flu activity has been tracking above baseline levels, trends are still well below the level seen a year ago."

Citing IMS Health data, Kelly reported that prescription growth through the first three weeks of January was down 70 basis points versus flat in December.

However, comparable sales will still skew positive. Credit Suisse projects Rite Aid's total comparable sales to be up approximately 0.5%. Rite Aid reports January sales on Jan. 30. And Walgreens' total same-store sales is expected to climb 2.5% in January when the company reports January sales next week. 



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