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Eckerd to Remodel Stores

NEW YORK - Drugstore chain Eckerd, a unit of J.C. Penny Co., said on Tuesday it is investing up to $210 million this year to remodel and build new stores in its attempt to return to profitability, Reuters reported.

In recent years Eckerd has lost sales to rivals such as Walgreen Co. and CVS Corp. The company's chief financial officer, Dennis Miller, told analysts that the company had begun turning the corner in the fourth-quarter of 2000, and continues to make progress.

"We have continued to improve our sales and operating profits during the first three quarters of 2001," he said.

Miller said one proof of the turnaround effort were improving same-store sales in the company's front-end or general merchandise category.

J.C. Penney reported last month that sales at Eckerd stores open at least a year rose 8.1 percent in September. Eckerd's front-end same-store sales -- which include such items as cosmetics, film, soda and greeting cards -- rose 3.3 percent, while pharmacy sales increase 10.5 percent.

Miller said for 2002 the company expects total same-store sales to show increases in the high single digits, front-end same-store sales in the low single digits and pharmacy same store in the 10 to 12 percent range.

"We continue to see evidence that we are continuing to rebuild our business," Miller said. He said the expected capital expenditure budget reflected an additional $50 million over the original plan.

Eckerd currently operates more than 2,600 stores, mainly in the Northeast, Southeast, Florida and Texas markets.

Chairman and Chief Executive Wayne Harris said by the end of fiscal 2003, 80 percent of Eckerd's store count and about 90 percent of store sales will be generated under a new store format.
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