Retailers, consumers and prices
Check out the impact of signs the U.S. flu season may be weaker this year.
Drug stores such as Walgreen, CVS and Rite Aid are offering flu shots earlier and more conveniently to keep sales from slumping with no expected H1N1 outbreak this year along the lines of last year.
Last year, consumers came for flu shots and bought other items as well, but those related sales could suffer this year. Walgreen, for example, said lower demand for flu-related prescriptions cut 0.3 percentage point from its same-store sales growth in August.
This year, drug stores began promoting flu shots in late August, a week earlier than last year.
Making it tougher for drug stores are rivals like grocery stores (Supervalu and Kroger), and big-box retailers (Target) have been offering flu shots as well.
Check out a dose of bad medicine for Walgreen.
Analysts had expected the No. 1 U.S. drugstore chain operator to post a 2.2 percent increase in same-store sales. But the company instead posted a surprise 1.1 percent drop.
Among factors that hurt the company were a calendar shift. This January had one less weekday in it than last year. That might not seem like a big deal, but Walgreen fills more prescriptions during the week so the shift cut 1.3 percentage points from the same-store sales increase.
Pharmacy same-store sales fell 1.2 percent, a decline made worse by the fact that some of those sales have were in the form of H1N1 flu shots, a one-time item.
If anyone knows about the demand for flu-related products, it’s Kimberly-Clark Chairman and CEO Thomas Falk.
Falk’s company sells everything from Kleenex tissues — which aren’t seeing such hot sales as people have fewer sniffles — to N95 respirator masks, which are a top seller right now.
Check out Walgreen’s sales growth.
Walgreen Co, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, said on Friday that September sales at its stores open at least one year rose 5.3 percent, thanks to in-store flu vaccinations and people filling more 90-day prescriptions.
Sales of general merchandise, which consumers have been shying away from in past months, also rose for the first time since May for Walgreen.
People have been worried about the H1N1 flu, aka swine flu, for months but the vaccine for that flu is not expected until at least mid-October.
So, for the time being, we’re taking a look at how the three major U.S. drugstore chains are preparing for the seasonal flu, which is responsible for about 36,000 deaths in the United States each year.