April 10, 2008 / 8:54 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-Longs Drug March same-store sales rise on Easter

(Recasts; adds details, share movement)

April 10 (Reuters) -Longs Drug Stores Corp LDG.N posted a 2.8 percent rise in March sales at stores open at least a year as strong demand for Easter merchandise helped offset tepid sales growth for prescription drugs.

The drugstore chain’s same-store sales of “front-end” goods, such as shampoo and candy, were up 5.7 percent in March, helped by an early Easter.

Easter fell on March 23 this year compared with April 8 last year making it the earliest Easter since 1913, according to the National Retail Federation.

Longs, whose stores fill prescriptions and sell health and beauty aids, convenience foods and greeting cards, said pharmacy same-store sales rose only 0.1 percent.

Longs Drug Stores, like it larger rivals Walgreen Co WAG.N, CVS Caremark (CVS.N) and Rite Aid (RAD.N), has lately been plagued by sluggish holiday sales and cheap generic drugs cutting into sales.

In addition, the switch of the prescription allergy medicine Zyrtec to over-the-counter status and a mild conclusion to the cold and flu season versus last year also hurt pharmacy same-store sales.

Shares of the company were down 31 cents at $37.34 in trading after the bell. They had closed at $37.65 Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan in Bangalore; Editing by Pratish Narayanan)

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