Rite Aid front-end comps up 3.8% amid shift in timing of Easter

Retail pharmacy chain reports 0.3% increase in same-store prescription count

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Same-store sales at Rite Aid decreased 2% in March, including a 3.8% increase in same-store sales on the front end and a 4.5% decrease in pharmacy sales due in part to new introductions of generic drugs, the retail pharmacy chain said Thursday.

The 4,621-store chain reported total sales for the month of $1.939 billion, a 2.5% decrease compared with $1.989 billion in March 2012, while same-store prescription count increased 0.3%.

The company said that of the 3.8% increase in front-end same-store sales, 3% came from a shift in timing of Easter, which fell on March 31, as opposed to April 8 last year.

Investment firm Guggenheim Partners maintained its "Buy" rating on Rite Aid's stock, saying it expected the company to post strong and above-trend growth in EBITDA in its fourth quarter 2012 earnings, which it will report next Thursday. Guggenheim analyst John Heinbockel noted that script count was below the 1.5% recent trendline, and the reason was unclear but appeared to be due to a weakening of the economy, but the firm expects the meaningful generic drug benefit to GM to persist into the first quarter of fiscal year 2014. 

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