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Walgreens’ January sales up 9.6 percent

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. The ongoing replacement of some branded pharmaceuticals with recently introduced, lower-priced generic drugs, combined with a still-sluggish flu sales season, continued to drain some of the life out of Walgreen Co.’s sales momentum in January, but results for the month did show a firming trend in same-store sales.

Walgreens reported January sales of $4.96 billion, an increase of 9.6 percent over the same month last year. Sales in comparable stores rose 3.8 percent, with same-store front-end sales rising 3.1 percent.

January pharmacy sales were up 10 percent companywide and 4.2 percent on a same-store basis, Walgreens reported, with total prescriptions filled at comparable stores increasing 2.9 percent. The gains were modest, by Walgreens’ standards, but an improvement over December results, when total sales rose just 7.8 percent over December of 2006, to $5.51 billion, and same-store sales were up a paltry 2.6 percent.

Walgreens is blaming the same factors in January that dogged its year-end results: the substitution of more higher-priced brand-name drugs for low-cost generics at the prescription counter and a slow sales season for flu products and cough-cold medications. “Comparable-pharmacy sales were negatively impacted by 4.2 percentage points due to generic drug introductions in the last 12 months,” the company reported today.

“Calendar day shifts accounted for a negative impact of 0.5 percentage points on comparable pharmacy sales,” Walgreens noted. “The company saw some improvement from December in cough and cold product sales, but the category continues to show weakness compared to a year ago. Impacting pharmacy sales was a milder flu season, which hurt the number of prescriptions filled by 1.8 percentage points.”

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General Imaging to sell cameras at Walgreens

BY Doug Desjardins

LAS VEGAS General Imaging used the first day of the Photo Marketing Association show to announce it will begin selling its cameras at Walgreens in April.

The buzz on opening day at PMA centered on the new wave of new cameras loaded with such features as face and smile recognition at lower prices, a product of a mature market that’s unlikely to match the 34 million cameras sold in the U.S. last year. “Walgreens has been selling some of our cameras on their Web site but they’ll soon be selling them in 6,000 stores,” said Rene Buhay, General Imaging senior vice president of sales and marketing, Americas. “And this will be our first venture into the food and drug category.”

Speaking from the PMA show floor in Las Vegas, Buhay said stores would carry the basic A735 and E850 models with prices starting at $89. “Having our cameras available in stores that are so familar to generations of Americans is a great accomplishment,” he said. “This will help us greatly in further extending our brand.” Buhay said entering Walgreens would expand its GE branded line of cameras to more than 22,000 storefronts. The company also unveiled nine new cameras at PMA.

The PMA show will run until Feb. 2 and is expected to attract more than 20,000 attendees who will check out the latest cameras and printers from major vendors, including Canon, Kodak, Sony, Nikon and Hewlett-Packard.

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HearAtLast opens its first stand-alone U.S. location

BY Antoinette Alexander

TORONTO HearAtLast Holdings, which operates hearing clinics within select Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club locations, has announced the opening of its U.S. first clinic in The Villages, an adult community in Florida.

Prior to the opening, HearAtLast Stores operated exclusively within select Wal-Mart Stores and Sam’s Clubs throughout Canada. The company has nearly doubled its locations expanding from eight to 15 outlets between October and December of 2007. With the newest location, there are currently 16 hearing clinics in Canada and the United States.

The U.S. HearAtLast location is the product of a joint venture between HearAtLast and Vivatone Hearing Systems, a maker of digital hearing aids.

HearAtLast locations sell a selection of hearing aids and offer complimentary screening tests, clinical hearing tests, instant custom MP3 headphones and custom hearing protection.

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