Walgreens posted total sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2013, which ended November 30, that came in down 4.5% to $17.34 billion year over year, the company announced. Comparable store sales fell 7.7%, while front-end comps, which cover general merchandise such as home goods, slipped by 2% versus last year’s period.
November sales were $5.9 billion, down 3.9% from the month last year, Walgreens noted. Total front-end sales decreased 0.3% while comparable store front-end sales decreased 1.7% versus the year-prior November. Customer traffic in comparable stores decreased 4.9% for the month while basket size increased 3.2%. Overall, comps slipped by 6.2% in November. Calendar day shifts negatively impacted total comparable sales by 0.2 percentage point, the company said, adding that generic drug introductions in the past 12 months negatively impacted total comparable sales by 5.7 percentage points.
Morgan Stanley analyst Mark Wiltamuth, in a research note, said Walgreens November financials included a “better than expected improvement in pharmacy script comps…November’s script comp is a significant jump from October and could be a sign that Walgreens is making progress in its efforts to win back customers that it lost during the Express Scripts dispute.”
Walgreens and pharmacy services provider Express Scripts fell out over payments. So, for several months the retailer refused to fill Express Scripts-covered prescriptions. The move cost Walgreens not only pharmacy sales but customers who did other shopping at stores where they could get their prescriptions filled. Walgreens recently reached a new deal with Express Scripts and is trying to win back customers lost to competitors such as CVS and Rite Aid.
Walgreens opened 39 stores during November, the company stated, including 10 relocations, while it closed one. As of November 30, Walgreens operated 8,516 locations in all 50 of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.