CAMP HILL, Pa. (AP) -- The flu helped Rite Aid Corp. sales in established stores rise slightly in January, although generic drugs continued to hurt the drugstore chain's pharmacy sales.
The Camp Hill, Pa., company said Thursday that revenue from stores open at least a year grew 0.3 percent in the four-week period that ended Jan. 26. Pharmacy revenue fell 1.4 percent despite an increase in flu shots and flu-related prescriptions.
Experts say this flu season is worse than last year's, with more cases reported.
The introduction of generic equivalents to popular brand-name drugs like Lipitor has hurt pharmacy revenue, but helped profitability, for Rite Aid and its competitors over the past year. Generics hurt revenue because they're cheaper than their brand-name counterparts. They boost profitability because they come with a wider margin between the cost for the pharmacy to purchase the drugs and the reimbursement it receives.
Rite Aid sales from the front end, or the rest of the store, increased 4.2 percent in January at stores open at least a year, largely due to flu-related over-the-counter products.
Sales from stores open at least a year — or same-store sales — is a key indicator of retail health because it leaves out results from locations that opened or closed in the last year.
Rite Aid said total revenue for the four-week period slipped less than 1 percent to $1.91 billion.
Rite Aid is the nation's third largest drugstore chain, trailing Walgreen Co. and CVS Caremark Corp. Rite Aid operated 4,626 stores as of Jan. 26, or 46 fewer than a year ago.
The company's shares rose 2 cents to $1.58 in afternoon trading.