April 3, 2008 / 2:15 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-Rite Aid March same-store sales rise 2.6 pct on Easter

(Recasts, adds details, share movement)

April 3 (Reuters) - Rite Aid Corp (RAD.N), the third-largest U.S. drugstore chain, posted a 2.6 percent rise in sales at stores open at least a year, driven by strong demand for Easter merchandise.

The company, whose stores fill prescriptions and sell health and beauty aids, convenience foods and greeting cards, said pharmacy same-store sales rose 1.0 percent.

Rite Aid said its pharmacy same-store sales were hurt by the introduction of lower-priced generic drugs. While more profitable for drugstores, these medicines cut into sales figures.

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.

Total drugstore sales for the four-week period ended March 29 rose 50.7 percent to $2.04 billion.

The Camp Hill, Pennsylvania-based retailer said the Brooks Eckerd stores it acquired last year were excluded from the same store sales calculation but included in the total sales figures for March.

Rite Aid had bought the drugstores from Canada’s Jean Coutu Group Inc PJCa.TO in 2007 to compete better with larger rivals Walgreen Co WAG.N and CVS Caremark (CVS.N).

Rite Aid’s shares were up 2 cents at $3 in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan in Bangalore; Editing by Deepak Kannan)

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