Rite Aid reports 2.2% decrease in comps for December

Same-store prescription count increases by 4.4%

CAMP HILL, Pa. — A shift in the New Year's holiday calendar and the introduction of new generic drugs contributed to a decrease in same-store sales for the month of December at Rite Aid, the retail pharmacy chain said Thursday.

Rite Aid reported a 2.2% decrease in comps for the four-week period that ended Saturday, including a 1% decrease in front-end comps and a 2.9% decrease in pharmacy comps. The company said the calendar shift had a negative effect of 1.1% on front-end comps, while the decrease in pharmacy comps included a negative effect of 605 bps from new generic drug introductions. Same-store prescription count increased by 4.4%, including a 1.7% contribution from flu-related prescriptions and flu shots.

Guggenheim Partners analyst John Heinbockel said the results were in line with his firm's expectations and reiterated Guggenheim's "Buy" rating of Rite Aid's stock, noting that the decline was driven largely by the generic wave, and the chain had continued to retain many of the scripts it won over during the Express Scripts-Walgreens dispute. Heinbockel also wrote that the decline in pharmacy comps was "modestly better" than the 4% drop he had forecasted. Rite Aid's stock opened at $1.40 per share Thursday morning, unchanged from Wednesday's closing price, falling to $1.38 in late Thursday afternoon trading.

Total sales for the four-week period decreased by 2.7%, to $2.054 billion, compared with $2.112 billion in December 2011.

Comps for the 43-week period that ended Saturday increased 0.1%, including a 1.4% increase in front-end comps and a 0.6% decrease in pharmacy comps, while same-store prescription count increased by 3.6%.

Total store sales for the 43-week period decreased by 0.6%, to $20.913 billion, compared with $21.030 billion during the same period in 2011.

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