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Walgreens’ overall sales up 1.5% for the month of February

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Higher front-end sales for the month of February helped counter-balance lost revenue from Express Scripts prescriptions, Walgreeens reported Monday. Overall, the drug store chain reported a 1.5% sales increase to $5.9 billion.

Shares of Walgreens were up slightly by 8 cents to $32.77 in early morning trading.

This year’s total February sales benefited from one extra day because of leap year, the company noted. Prescriptions filled at comparable stores decreased 9.5% in February (comp sales do not include that extra day). In addition to Express Scripts, lower incidence of flu negatively impacted comparable store prescriptions filled by 1.2 percentage points.

February pharmacy sales decreased 1.4%, while comparable-store pharmacy sales decreased 8.6%. Comparable-store pharmacy sales were negatively impacted by 2.2 percentage points due to generic drug introductions in the last 12 months, by 2.4 percentage points due to lower incidence of cough, cold and flu and by 10.6 percentage points due to no longer being part of the Express Scripts network.

Additionally, the negative impact on comparable-store prescriptions filled, due to no longer being part of the Express Scripts pharmacy network, was 10.7 percentage points. Prescriptions processed by Express Scripts comprised 12.6% of Walgreens prescriptions in February 2011.

Pharmacy sales accounted for 61.6% of total sales for the month.

Total front-end sales increased 6.9% compared with the same month in 2011, while comparable-store front-end sales increased 2%. Customer traffic in comparable stores was down 0.2% while basket size was up 2.2%.

Flu shots administered at pharmacies and clinics season-to-date were 5.5 million versus 6.3 million last year.

Total sales for the second quarter of fiscal 2012 were $18.6 billion, up 0.7% from the same period a year ago.

Fiscal 2012 year-to-date sales for the first six months were $36.8 billion, up 2.6%. Calendar year-to-date sales were $11.6 billion, a decrease of 0.6%.

Walgreens opened 10 stores during February, including one relocation, and acquired one store.

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NRF to policy-makers: Don’t broaden cybersecurity legislation

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — Two bills designed to protect "covered critical infrastructure" against cyber attacks by terrorists and others should remain focused on their key purpose and not be expanded to include data breach legislation or broad new privacy regimes, the National Retail Federation said.

The cybersecurity bills in question are the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which was introduced last month by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Vt., and ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine; as well as the the Strengthening and Enhancing Cybersecurity by Using Research, Education, Information and Technology Act, or SECURE IT Act, which was introduced by Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and fellow committee member Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

NRF said that while the bills are not directed specifically at retailers, if the legislation is broadened, it may "become a vehicle to which lawmakers would try to attach long-pending proposals regarding online security and privacy." This potentially could include data breach measures that could force retailers to unnecessarily spend millions of dollars on data monitoring services for customers if their databases were hacked.

"Cybersecurity legislation includes the laudable goal of increasing information sharing between the government and private sector, but the goals underlying the cybersecurity legislation and provisions in data breach notification legislation are fundamentally contradictory," NRF SVP government relations David French said in a letter. "Juxtaposing these contrasting proposals would place businesses in a precarious position when their systems are attacked by cyber criminals. Thoughtful examination and comparison of these pieces of legislation reveal that they are not properly aligned."

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Video-on-demand series brings attention to realities of diabetes

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — According to various surveys and articles on the topic, television networks love reality TV. After all, a reality TV show is cheaper — $100,000 to $500,000 per episode, according to some estimates — and simpler to produce than a show with a script, multiple sets and special effects. And to boot, it gets a lot of viewers. But regardless of their benefits to big media companies, reality TV shows also have a habit of influencing culture, which UnitedHealth Group and Comcast hope to use to their advantage.

(THE NEWS: UnitedHealthGroup, Comcast launch pilot to evaluate video-on-demand programming for Diabetes Prevention Program. For the full story, click here.)

Notice how people like Snooki and The Situation — stars of the MTV reality show "Jersey Shore" — once ordinary people from New Jersey, have become major celebrities who dazzle the entertainment industry and even influence people’s tastes in fashion. But does reality TV have the ability to influence public health as well?

Certainly, the late Pedro Zamora, a cast member on the third season of MTV’s long-running reality TV series "The Real World," helped bring a lot of public attention to the AIDS epidemic with his presence on the show as a gay man living with the disease and subsequent death from it. In a related vein, after cooking show host Paula Deen went public about her diagnosis with Type 2 diabetes, drug maker Novo Nordisk hired her as a spokeswoman, though this also had the unintended side effect of generating a backlash against Deen.

The effect of the UnitedHealth Group-Comcast alliance remains to be seen, but presenting viewers with real people might allow them to identify with cast members more than they would with, say, actors or cartoon characters.

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