CHICAGO - Customers filled more prescriptions at Walgreen Co. but continued to shy away from general merchandise, with sales at stores open at least a year up just 1.9 percent in August and 2.1 percent in the drugstore chain's recently completed fiscal year.
Two analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, on average, had expected Walgreen's August same-store sales to rise 3.1 percent.
Walgreen, the largest U.S. drugstore chain by revenue, said August same-store sales at its pharmacy counters climbed 3.8 percent, while same-store sales of general merchandise fell 1.3 percent.
U.S. drugstores get about two-thirds of their revenue from prescription sales, but sales of items such as candy and cosmetics can signal whether customers are willing to make more discretionary purchases. Walgreen said demand for general merchandise continues to be weak in the challenging economy.
Total sales for fiscal 2009, which ended Aug. 31, rose 7.3 percent to $63.35 billion, Walgreen said. The company operated 6,996 drugstores as of Aug. 31. (Reporting by Jessica Wohl, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)