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DEERFIELD, IL-Just two days away from opening its 7,000th unit–in Brooklyn, NY–Walgreen Co. is slowing its new store growth, executives said at the company’s fourth quarter conference call.

In 2000, the chain announced a goal of opening its 7,000th store by 2010, so the new unit is ahead of schedule, said president and CEO Greg Wasson. The chain will continue to slow expansion, with 2010 store growth of between 4.5% and 5% in 2010 and 2.5% to 3.0% beginning in 2011. The company also plans to remodel about 4,000 stores.

“We’re also now in all 50 states, having opened three stores in Alaska this summer,” Wasson said. “We’re balancing our new store openings with our commitment to enhancing our existing store base. But that doesn’t mean we’re walking away from new opportunities.”

Sales for the quarter were a record $15.7 billion, up 7.6% from the fourth quarter of last year. Comparable store sales rose 2.4%. Net earnings for the quarter were $436-million, down 1.5% from the prior-year quarter. For the year, sales were a record $63.3 billion, up 7.3% over the previous year. Net earnings were $2.01 billion, down 7.0% from last year.

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