Today Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) and Walgreen (NASDAQ:WBA) each reported sales for March, and the two drugstore chains had dramatically different results.

Walgreen announced that its comparable sales -- a metric measuring sales at stores that have been open for more than a year -- rose by 3.5%, and Rite Aid noted its same-store sales increased by less than one quarter of that amount at just 0.7%.

Each firm disclosed that its front-end sales decreased as a result of the timing of the Easter holiday -- on April 20 of this year versus March 31 of last year: Walgreen front-end sales fell 3.4% and Rite Aid's fell 5%. Rite Aid said the timing of the holiday was responsible for a 4.1% reduction in sales, whereas Walgreen did not disclose a specific amount in its press release.

In addition the firms both reported that pharmacy same-store sales rose, but once again the difference between the two was dramatic. Rite Aid saw its pharmacy sales rise by 3.5%, but suggested this was negatively affected by 1.3 percentage points as a result of the introduction of generic drugs. Walgreen noted its same-store pharmacy sales overall increased by 8%, but said it saw a drop of 1.6 percentage points from generic drugs.

Walgreen also noted it saw a positive impact of 0.9 percentage points from the timing of the calendar days, as March this year had one additional Monday and one less Friday versus 2013. Rite Aid did not disclose whether or not its pharmacy sales were positively or negatively affected by the shifting days.

Rite Aid saw its same-store total prescription count increase by 1.1% and Walgreen saw its prescriptions rise by 5.1%. In total, prescriptions accounted for 69.4% of sales at Rite Aid and 64.7% of sales at Walgreen.

Rite Aid was also outpaced by Walgreen in February, as its same-store -sales rose by 1.5%, whereas the comparable store sales at Walgreen rose by 4.5%.

Walgreen and Rite Aid are the nation's largest and third-largest drugstore chains, respectively, based on the number of stores. Walgreen had 8,221 drugstores at the end of last month, while Rite Aid operated 4,584. The second-largest, CVS Caremark Corp., which has more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores, doesn't report monthly sales publicly. 

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Patrick Morris has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends CVS Caremark. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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