Rite Aid comps rise 2.2% in January

Pharmacy retail chain emphasizes availability of whooping cough vaccines at 3,200 stores

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid's comps increased 2.2% for the month of January, compared with January 2011, the company said Thursday.

Announcing results of the four-week period that ended Saturday, the retail pharmacy chain said January front-end comps increased 2.7%, while pharmacy comps increased 2.1%, including a negative effect of 230 basis points from new generic introductions. Prescription count at comparable stores increased by 1.6%.

Total drug store sales for the month increased 1.6%, to $1.92 billion, compared with nearly $1.9 in January 2011, with 70% of that coming from prescription drug sales.

For the nine-week period that ended Saturday, comps increased 3%, compared with the same period last year, including a 1.4% increase in front-end comps and a 3.8% increase in pharmacy comps. Total drug store sales for the period were $4.6 billion, a 2.6% increase over the same period last year.

Meanwhile, over the last 12 months, comps increased 1.9%, including a 1% increase in front-end comps and a 2.3% increase in pharmacy comps. Total drug store sales increased 1.4%, to $23.5 billion.

The results beat the expectations of investors and analysts; Guggenheim Partners had anticipated a 0.9% rise in overall comps, while Wall Street investors had expected a 1.3% rise. Guggenheim attributed the higher-than-expected comps to better weather than last year and Walgreens' departure from the Express Scripts network, which had prompted numerous retailers — including Rite Aid — to seek to draw ESI members from the country's largest retail pharmacy chain.

In other news, the chain said it was providing Tdap booster vaccines for pertussis, also known as whooping cough, at 3,200 of its nearly 4,700 stores for $71.99. The vaccine is available at Rite Aid stores in California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia, the company said.

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