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WOONSOCKET, RI-CVS saw its sales surge 31.5% in the four weeks ending May 28, an increase largely due to the firm’s acquisition of 1,268 Eckerd drugstores and Eckerd’s pharmacy-benefit management business.

“By any measure, the Eckerd acquisition was a success,” said Thomas Ryan, chairman, president and chief executive officer of CVS Corp. and president and CEO of CVS Pharmacy Inc. Ryan, speaking at the firm’s annual analyst meeting Thursday, said last year’s acquisition of the Eckerd’s drug store chain helped CVS become a market leader in the high growth southeast and southwest regions while significantly diversifying its client base.

The pharmacy giant said company stores opened for at least a year showed sales increases of 5.8% in the four weeks ending May 28 while same store sales so far this year rose 7.2%. Overall year-to-date sales at all CVS stores showed a 33.4% increase.

The flourishing pharmacy industry, facing an aging baby boomer population, the increasing use of more profitable generic medications and a tidal wave of blockbuster designer drugs, is expected to more than triple in the next decade with growth rising from $236 billion in 2004 to a projected $720 billion by 2015, Ryan said.

“With the largest retail store base in the country and a significant PBM/Mail Order/Specialty pharmacy business, CVS is in the ‘sweet spot’ for growth opportunities,” Ryan noted.

The company, which operates more than 5,000 stores in 36 states, said it plans on capturing even more business with the addition of 275 to 300 stores annually over the next few years.

The Woonsocket, RI-based chain increased its full-year profit outlook to between $2.70 and $2.75 a share from an earlier forecast of between $2.66 and $2.72 and said earnings were likely to range in the second quarter from 61 cents to 63 cents a share, above its earlier outlook of 59 cents to 61 cents.

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