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Pharmacy surge pushes Walgreen sales from established stores up more than 9 pct in December

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DEERFIELD, Illinois — A big leap in pharmacy sales and a calendar shift helped Walgreen's revenue from established stores climb 9.2 percent last month.

The nation's largest drugstore chain said Tuesday that prescriptions filled at stores open at least a year rose nearly 8 percent, which helped pharmacy sales grow 14.2 percent last month.

Sales from the front end, or the rest of the store, rose 2.6 percent.

Revenue figures from established stores are seen as a key indicator of a retailer's health. The figures exclude the potentially distorting impact of recently opened or closed locations.

The performance topped the forecast of Credit Suisse analyst Edward J. Kelly, who said he had expected overall revenue from established stores to climb 7.2 percent, with pharmacy sales growing 10.5 percent.

Walgreen said last month included one additional Wednesday and one fewer Sunday compared to December 2013. Weekdays are typically busier for chain drugstores because customers are more inclined to visit a doctor on those days and then stop to fill a prescription.

The company also received a slight boost from more flu shots. Walgreen has administered nearly 7.6 million so far this season, compared to more than 6.7 million at the same point last season.

The Deerfield, Illinois, company ran 8,229 stores at the end of the month in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That's 29 more than a year ago.

Walgreen completed its purchase of European health and beauty retailer Alliance Boots last month, and the combined company's stock started the new year trading under the ticker symbol "WBA."

The company is now called Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., with Walgreen Co. serving as a subsidiary. Shares of Walgreens Boots Alliance slipped 24 cents to $74.26 in afternoon trading Tuesday as broader indexes also fell.

Walgreen's stock advanced more than 32 percent last year.

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