Walgreen (NYSE:WAG) reported on Wednesday a 4.3% drop in March sales, as stronger front-end revenue could not wholly offset a wide decline in the number of prescriptions filled by patients.
A lower incidence of flu and colds during the warmer-than-usual winter, as well as the loss of a prescription contract with Express Scripts, led to an 11.4% decline in prescriptions during March.
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That hurt pharmacy sales by 8.4%.
Front-end sales grew 2.5% leading up to the Easter season, as higher basket sizes offset a slight decline in customer traffic. The company also attributed the growth to its new weekly ad circular launched in mid-February that provides online savings.
The weak start to Walgreen’s third quarter follows a narrowed second-quarter profit amid soft pharmacy sales. The company last month blamed the results on what it called the mildest flu season in 29 years.