Walgreens reports 3.6% in December sales

DEERFIELD, Ill. Sales at Walgreens for the month of December increased 3.6% to $6.3 billion compared with the year-ago period, the drug store chain reported Wednesday.

Although Walgreens noted positive numbers for its monthly pharmacy sales and comparable pharmacy sales, which increased 4.8% and 1.8% respectively, overall sales in comparable stores dropped 0.3%. Walgreens also noted that comparable pharmacy sales were negatively impacted by 2.1 percentage points due to generic drug introductions in the last 12 months.

Pharmacy sales accounted for 59.4% of total sales for the month.

Meanwhile, total front-end sales increased 1.5% in December, while same-store front-end sales decreased 3.1%. The decline in comparable front-end sales was driven primarily by the company’s decision to take a cautious approach to buying this year’s seasonal inventory compared with last year, and as a result of a lower incidence of flu compared with December 2008.

Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson said, “In December 2008 we significantly discounted seasonal merchandise after buying substantial inventory in anticipation of a strong holiday season. This year, we took a more cautious buying approach and invested 28% fewer dollars in seasonal items for comparable stores. This significantly impacted holiday clearance sales, but it also positioned us to enter the new year in a better inventory position and with better gross margins compared with a year ago.”

Walgreens added that calendar 2009 sales were $65 billion, an increase of 7.3% from $60.6 billion in 2008. Fiscal 2010 year-to-date sales for the first four months were $22.7 billion, up 7.8% from $21.1 billion.

Walgreens opened four stores during December and closed two. At Dec. 31, Walgreens operated 7,651 locations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. That includes 7,149 drug stores, 513 more than a year ago, including 55 stores acquired over the last 12 months.

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