PHARMACY

Walgreens, defying economic swoon, notches respectable gains in December

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. Pushing upstream against a dismal economic climate, Walgreens managed a gain of nearly 5% in comparable-store sales in December, with total sales rising 10.8% over prior-year levels to $6.1 billion.

 

Comp-store sales swelled 4.9% over the same month in 2007, Walgreens reported today, with “steady consumer traffic throughout the month” and a December increase in customer transactions of 0.7% in stores open more than a year.

 

 

Behind the relatively rosy numbers, however, lie two caveats. For one thing, most of the comp-store gains came courtesy of strong pharmacy sales, which were up 8.5% over December 2007 levels on a same-store basis. By comparison, sales at the front of the store edged up just 0.4%, clearly underscoring the nation’s abysmal level of consumer demand through the crucial holiday season.

 

 

In addition, Walgreens acknowledged, the December 2008 selling period got a boost from calendar day shifts, as pharmacy patients fill more prescriptions during the week than on weekends. “This year, December had two more weekdays compared to December 2007,” the company reported. “Calendar shifts positively impacted total comparable store sales by 2.0 percentage points, comparable pharmacy sales by 3.4 percentage points and prescriptions filled in comparable stores by 3.3 percentage points.”

 

 

Front-end sales were not impacted by the day shift, Walgreens added.

 

 

Helping to keep front-end sales from slipping into negative territory were “strong sales of basic necessities, consumables and key beauty categories,” according to the company. “Also, Zyrtec’s switch to over-the-counter status benefited front-end sales by 0.4 percentage points.”

 

 

Nevertheless, Walgreens reported, “December sales were hurt by weakness in seasonal categories as consumers continue to focus on non-discretionary purchases.”

 

 

Walgreens opened just two stores during December, acquired five stores and closed one, ending the calendar year with 7,131 locations in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. That includes 6,636 drugstores, 596 more than a year ago, as well as worksite health centers, home care facilities and specialty, institutional and mail service pharmacies.

 

 

Walgreens said its Take Care Health Systems subsidiary now manages 678 in-store convenient care clinics and worksite health and wellness centers. Franchisees of Option Care, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Walgreens, are not included in Walgreens’ location or store count.

 

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PHARMACY

CVS Caremark expands H1N1 vaccinations to more locations

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark is now providing H1N1 flu vaccinations at select CVS/pharmacy locations in Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania and New York, as well at MinuteClinic locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The eight states are among many that have lifted priority group restrictions, allowing all patients to be eligible to receive the shot while supplies last.

“Our customers depend on CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic for their health care needs, so we are pleased to be able to expand H1N1 vaccine availability to these additional states,” stated Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., chief medical officer of CVS Caremark. “H1N1 flu is currently active in many communities across the country and it is likely that we will see increased flu activity, as is typically the case, in January and February.”

CVS Caremark continues to expand the availability of H1N1 vaccine in its stores and retail health clinics across the country and the vaccine now is available in 28 states and Washington, DC at either CVS/pharmacy or at MinuteClinic.

H1N1 vaccine is being offered at:

  • Select CVS/pharmacy locations in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii (Longs Drugs stores), Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
  • MinuteClinic locations in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The cost of the H1N1 flu vaccination shot at CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic is a $15 administration fee, which may be covered by insurance.

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Giant Food launches free antibiotic prescription program

BY Antoinette Alexander

LANDOVER, Md. Giant Food is launching a free antibiotic prescription program that will run from Jan. 2 to March 21 in all Giant pharmacies.

The program covers 36 generic antibiotics in nine basic categories. The retailer is supporting the program with television ads, physician outreach, in-store communication and an expanded Web presence.

“Free antibiotics is the latest good news our pharmacies are offering the public,” stated Andrea Astrachan, consumer advisor for Giant Food. “We also offer up to a 90-day supply on over 350 commonly prescribed generic drugs for only $9.99.”

The company operates 182 supermarkets in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia. Within its 182 stores, 163 have full service pharmacies.

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