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Key Rite Aid revenue metric falls in April

CAMP HILL, Pa. (AP) -- Rite Aid's revenue from established stores slipped 4 percent last month, as an earlier Easter and new generic drugs hurt sales for the nation's third largest drugstore chain.

The Camp Hill, Pa., company said Thursday that pharmacy revenue from stores open at least a year fell a 4.2 percent compared to the same period last year. Revenue from the front end, or rest of the store, fell 3.5 percent.

Revenue from stores open at least a year is considered a key indicator of retailer health because it leaves out results from locations that have opened or closed in the last year.

Rite Aid Corp. said an Easter that fell on March 31 instead of April 8, as it did last year, hurt the front-end performance comparison for the four-week period that ended April 27. Generic drugs pinched the pharmacy, where the prescription count also dropped slightly. Prescriptions accounted for nearly 68 percent of drugstore revenue.

Generic equivalents for top-selling medicines like the cholesterol fighter Lipitor have hurt revenue for drugstore chains for several quarters now because the drugs are cheaper than their brand-name counterparts. But they help earnings because they come with a wider margin between the price drugstores pay to buy them and the reimbursement they receive for doling them out.

Total revenue for the month fell 4.6 percent to $1.9 billion.

Rite Aid operated 4,619 stores at the end of April. It trails only Walgreen Co. and CVS Caremark Corp. in terms of locations.

Shares of Rite Aid edged up by a penny to $2.59 in midday trading Thursday. The stock price has ranged between 95 cents and $2.68 over the past week, with the shares hitting that high price on Monday.