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DEERFIELD, IL-Walgreen Co. plans to open 550 stores in its current fiscal year and started its expansion by rolling out 169 units during the first quarter. Management is shooting for a long-term total of 13,000 locations across the country, and the company is nearly half way there, with 6,139 in its current portfolio.

Contrary to reports, new stores are not lagging in sales due to high construction and labor costs, said William Rudolphsen, the company’s chief financial officer, during Walgreen’s Q1 conference call. The stores that opened last year had average sales of just under $2.1 million, higher than any first-year totals since 2002. “The productivity of new stores has not diminished over the last five years,” Rudolphsen said.

Geographically, Walgreen is making a push in the Northeast and California. The company is also expanding its in-store Take Care health clinics. Those are currently in 119 units, and management is shooting for that to increase to 400 by the end of next year.

Total same-store sales during the quarter, which ended Nov. 30, rose 5.4% year over year. Front-end sales in units increased 4.6%, while pharmacies posted a 5.9% gain. The number of comparable-prescriptions filled in stores rose 3.7%.

Total sales rose 10.4%, hitting a record $14 billion, while net earnings increased 5.5%, to $456 million.

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