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CAMP HILL, PA-Rite Aid Corp. has received rent relief in 20% of the stores for which it asks help, and will close 134 stores this year, executives said at the company’s third quarter conference call.

The company is reviewing about 200 stores with leases set to expire in the next three years and 500 are underperforming, said Frank Vitrano, executive VP and CFO. Working with both an in-house staff and an outside firm, Rite-Aid is seeking rent relief to improve profitability.

“We continue to work with our landlord partners to arrive at a satisfactory outcome,” Vitrano said. The company also has sold 27 of 34 surplus stores.

The company will open a total of 18 stores in fiscal 2010, down from 33 new units in fiscal 2009, while closing 134 units.

Store closures have not yet been determined for next year, Vitrano noted, but this year’s count is likely to “be on the high side” of what is planned. In addition, the company does not have a “large number of contractual obligation” to pen new stores next year. Fewer remodels are planned, as well.

Sales for the quarter were $6.35 billion, down 1.8% from the third quarter of last year. Same-store sales declined 0.5%. The company posted a net loss of $83.9 million, vs. a loss of $243.1 million in the prior-year quarter.

Rite Aid operates more than 4,800 stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

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