Walgreen Co , the largest U.S. drugstore chain, said September sales at its stores open at least a year jumped 5.3 percent, aided by in-store flu vaccinations and shoppers filling more 90-day prescriptions.
Sales of general merchandise, which have suffered as consumers curb non-essential spending, also climbed for the first time since May.
Retailers kicked off their seasonal flu vaccinations earlier than usual this year amid raised awareness of the flu with the H1N1 pandemic. Walgreen is expected to see the biggest jump in revenue and profit from the strategy.
Pharmacy same-store sales rose 7 percent. The number of prescriptions filled at existing stores jumped 12 percent, including 5.2 percentage points due to pharmacists administering seasonal flu shots.
Such sales also got a 1.4 percentage point boost from more patients filling 90-day prescriptions, which count as three 30-day prescriptions in the month that they are filled.
Walgreen, which administered 1.2 million seasonal flu vaccines in last year's flu season, has already given more than 2.4 million this season and aims to administer 5 million.
Analysts have said that giving more flu shots could help drive other sales, if people who come in for vaccinations decide to buy items such as cosmetics and candy.
Same-store sales of general merchandise climbed 2 percent.
Walgreen's total September sales jumped 10.3 percent to $5.35 billion.
Walgreen's growth contrasted with a report from Rite Aid Corp , the No. 3 U.S. drugstore. On Thursday, Rite Aid said its same-store sales fell 0.3 percent in the four weeks ended September 26. Rite Aid's pharmacy same-store sales rose 0.7 percent, while general merchandise same-store sales fell 2.3 percent.
The introduction of generic drugs over the past year cut into pharmacy sales at both chains. Such drugs carry lower revenue, but are typically more profitable for drugstores.
CVS Caremark Corp , the second-largest U.S. drugstore chain, does not issue monthly sales reports.
Shares of Walgreen, which has 7,045 stores across the country, climbed to $38.50 after closing at $38.19 in Thursday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Jessica Wohl, editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Dave Zimmerman)