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RAD comps increase 3.6% in December

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid’s same-store sales increased 3.6% in December 2011, compared with December 2010, the company said Thursday.

Front-end same-store sales increased by 0.7%, while pharmacy same-store sales increased by 5.2% and prescription count at comparable stores increased 3.2%. Total store sales increased by 3.3% to $2.6 billion, compared with December 2010’s nearly $2.6 billion.

One factor that helped raise the numbers was a New Year’s holiday calendar shift, resulting in a 2.1% increase in same-store sales when the holiday period through Jan. 2 is included.

For the 44-week period ending Dec. 31, same-store sales increased by 1.8%, including a 0.8% increase in front-end same-store sales and a 2.3% increase in pharmacy same-store sales. Total store sales increased 1.4% to $21.5 billion, compared with $21.2 billion in 2010. Prescription sales accounted for 67.9% of total store sales.

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Paper Mate introduces InkJoy line

BY Allison Cerra

ATLANTA — Paper Mate has globally launched a new line of writing instruments.

Looking to offer consumers advanced writing performance at an affordable price, InkJoy features ultra-low viscosity ink and proprietary ink delivery system to provide "an unparalleled, effortless writing experience," Paper Mate said. InkJoy is available in 100, 300 and 700 series: the 100 and 300 series are available in 10 bright, modern ink colors, while the 700 series is available in black, blue and red ink colors.

The launch of InkJoy will be supported by a global multifaceted marketing campaign, called "The World’s Most Stolen Pen," which includes 15- and 30-second television spots, social media promotions on Facebook and Twitter, and more.

"Paper Mate InkJoy will forever change consumers’ expectations of what a pen can deliver," Paper Mate global director of marketing Scott Crist said. "InkJoy writes and feels premium but is priced for mass audiences worldwide. Once you try InkJoy, you’ll feel the joy."

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Target fumbles during holiday playoff run

BY Mike Troy

MINNEAPOLIS — Joe Namath he’s not. Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel assured investors last month that December comps would exceed November’s 1.8% increase, but then Thursday morning reported a disappointing 1.6% increase and a reduced profit forecast.

Namath, the former National Football League’s New York Jets quarterback, famously guaranteed victory over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III and then delivered on his guidance with a stunning 16-7 victory. Conversely, Target’s failure to live up to Steinhafel’s guarantee that fourth-quarter comps would be in a low to mid single-digit range, but above November’s 1.8% gain, caused the company to significantly reduce its fourth-quarter earnings per share forecast to a range of $1.35 to $1.43 from $1.43 to $1.53. The company did stick with a January comp forecast in the low to mid single-digit range, the same as in December and November. What makes Target’s December results even more disappointing is the company was up against a relatively easy prior-year comparison when comps increased just 0.9%. The 1.8% gain in November, also regarded as disappointing at the time, was at least a little more understandable as it came a against a prior-year comparison of 5.5%.

“December sales were below our expectations as growth in grocery and beauty offset softness in electronics and music, movies and books,” Steinhafel said. “Sales and traffic were strongest in the week leading up to Christmas as guests waited to shop for last-minute gifts. In 2012, we’ll continue to pursue initiatives designed to deliver compelling value and a superior shopping experience against the backdrop of continued slow and volatile economic growth.”

If there was a bright spot amid the company’s December showing it was the fact that the majority of the growth the company experienced was driven by an increase in average transaction size which suggest loyalty among core customers. Steinhafel also took the high road by not offering weather conditions as an excuse for sales weakness even though unseasonably warm conditions are believed to have negatively impacted Target and other retailers.

Additionally, the company noted that December comps in food increased in the low teens while comps in household essentials increased in the mid single digit range, with the strongest performance in beauty. Comps in apparel and accessories increased in the low single digit range, with the strongest performance in kids’ apparel and the intimate, hosiery and performance categories. The softest performance was in jewelry and accessories and shoes. Comps in hardlines decreased in the low single-digit range, with the strongest performance in toys and the softest performance in electronics and music, movies and books. Comparable-store sales in home furnishings and decor decreased in the low single-digit range, with the strongest performance in seasonal categories and the softest performance in decorative home.

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