Unstructured Finance

Check Out Line: Have a flu shot, spend some more

flushot1Check 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.

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(Reuters photo)

Check Out Line: Walgreen sales catch a cold

WALGREEN/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.

The same-store sales decline was also the second monthly surprise in a row.

The problem has also infected the entire store, with general merchandise sales also down.

Even CEOs don’t make the top of the H1N1 list

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.

h1n1-flu-vaccinesFalk, who spoke with Reuters following his company’s better-than-expected results, said he got his seasonal flu shot at a store while he was in Wisconsin.  Though, he said he does not plan to get an H1N1 shot because the vaccine is being targeted at pregnant women (he’s not in that category) and people 24 and under (that’s right, he’s not on that list, either).

Check Out Line: Flu vaccinations aid drugstores

WALGREEN/

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.

Retailers began their seasonal flu vaccinations earlier than usual this year, amid raised awareness of the flu with the H1N1 pandemic. Pharmacy same-store sales rose 7 percent for Walgreen, with the number of prescriptions filled at existing stores jumping 12 percent, including 5.2 percentage points from pharmacists administering seasonal flu shots.

Vilsack rips media over swine flu, I mean, H1N1

Hog markets are depressed. Farmers struggle to put food on the table. Hard times are seeping into the rural economy, hurting owners of grocery and hardware stores.

Blame the media, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, unleashing several lengthy rants about the evils of oversimplification during a 25-minute teleconference with reporters on Thursday.

Vilsack scolded the media for continuing to call the new strain of pandemic H1N1 flu by its more common name: swine flu.

The flu frenzy has begun

flu-shotPeople 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.

A survey conducted by Walgreen in mid-August found that 50 percent of consumers plan to get a seasonal flu shot this year, up from 43 percent who say they got one last season.  Twenty-seven percent of respondents to the online poll said they were more concerned about getting the flu than they were a year ago. 

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