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Duane Reade sees total net sales rise 4.5 percent

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK Manhattan-based pharmacy retailer Duane Reade narrowed its net loss for the second quarter as sales of food and beverages, OTC medications and beauty products helped drive front-end same-store sales up 5.6 percent.

“We are pleased with our second quarter results and with the consistently solid performance of the business, especially in light of the challenging economic environment,” stated John Lederer, chairman and chief executive officer. “We have remained focused on refining the merchandise mix, upgrading customer service and meeting the needs of our unique and diverse customer base. These efforts yielded solid results in the reporting period, including strong comparable store sales increases, continued margin expansion and the eighth consecutive quarter of year-over-year adjusted FIFO EBITDA growth.”

Net retail store sales, which exclude pharmacy resale activity, rose 3.8 percent to $432.1 million from $416.3 million in the year-ago period. Total net sales rose 4.5 percent to $451.4 million. Same-store sales increased 4.7 percent, with front-end same-store sales rising 5.6 percent. Pharmacy same-store sales rose 3.6 percent.

Net loss for the quarter was $12.1 million compared with $20.1 million in the year-ago period. The improvement was due in part to reduced interest expense of $3.3 million in the quarter.

At quarter end, the company’s total debt, including capital leases but excluding the liability associated with the issuance of the redeemable preferred stock, was $554.8 million, reflecting a decrease of $1.1 million from the balance at the end of fiscal 2007. Availability under the company’s revolving credit facility at quarter end was about $71.4 million.

During the quarter, the company opened four new stores and closed five locations. As of June 28, the pharmacy retailer had 241 stores.

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Seattle to begin charging fee on shopping bags

BY Alaric DeArment

SEATTLE Seattle’s city council approved a 20-cent charge for plastic and paper bags at retail stores in a 6-1 vote Monday. The council also voted unanimously to ban some plastic foam containers.

City officials estimate that Seattleites use 360 million paper and plastic bags each year, The Seattle Times reported.

The two votes follow bans on plastic bags that passed in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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Hallmark signs licensing deal with Fox

BY Doug Desjardins

LOS ANGELES Hallmark has signed a deal with 20th Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising that gives the greeting card company access to images and sound clips from 50 years of TV shows and movies.

The agreement will allow Hallmark to use properties like The Simpsons, Ice Age and older films including The Sound of Music in sound greeting cards and other social expression products. Hallmark will dedicate four-feet of retail space in 3,700 of its Hallmark Gold Crown stores this fall to products based on Fox properties.

“Hallmark is a blue chip partner and category leader who has already proven themselves experts in translating The Simpsons into a line of top-selling cards,” said Elie Dekel, executive VP of 20th Century Fox Licensing and Merchandising.

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