Walgreen’s October sales helped by flu shots, pharmacy

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DEERFIELD — Walgreen’s revenue from established stores topped analyst expectations last month, as more flu shots and higher pharmacy revenue helped the nation’s largest drugstore chain.

The Deerfield company said Wednesday that revenue from stores open at least a year rose 5.6 percent last month. That figure is seen as a key indicator of a retailer’s health because it excludes the potentially distorting impact of recently opened or closed stores.

Analysts expected, on average, growth of 5.2 percent, according to Thomson Reuters.

Revenue from Walgreen’s established pharmacies climbed 7.5 percent while sales from the front end, or the rest of its stores, rose 2 percent. Analysts expected growth of 7.1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

Walgreen ran more than 8,200 drugstores last month. Its stores and the clinics in them have administered more than 5.7 million flu shots so far this season. That’s up from 4.9 million last year, and the growth helped counter a sales hit from the shifting calendar.

Last month had one additional Friday and one less Tuesday than October 2013. Tuesdays are typically busier days for the drugstore chain’s pharmacies than Fridays. Pharmacies account for more than two thirds of the company’s total sales.

Walgreen also saw the continuation of a trend last month in which its customer traffic slowed, but those who visited purchased more.

Walgreen shares closed at $65.24 on Tuesday and have climbed nearly 14 percent so far this year. Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has risen nearly 9 percent.

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