* Quarterly EPS C$0.68 vs year-earlier C$0.67
* Most sales were nonprescription
* Shares down 0.6 percent
TORONTO, July 21 (Reuters) - Shoppers Drug Mart Corp SC.TO, Canada’s biggest drugstore chain, reported a higher quarterly profit on Thursday as strong sales of food and other non-pharmacy items drove the business.
Front-of-store sales, which include over-the-counter medications, cosmetics, food and drinks, have boosted Shoppers’ results over the last past few quarters, offsetting the impact of reforms to provincial legislation that have brought down generic-drug prices.
The impact of the reforms at Canada’s three major pharmacy chains — Shoppers, Jean Coutu Group Inc (PJCa.TO) and Katz Group — has also been moderated by a higher volume of drug sales resulting from the aging population.
Nonprescription items, some of which were heavily promoted by Shoppers, accounted for most of the company’s sales in the second quarter, ended June 18.
“They’re being promotional. Being promotional is good in one aspect. While it hurts your margins, it does drive traffic,” Edward Jones analyst Brian Yarbrough said.
The promotions targeted consumers who have become value-conscious because of the economy. Yarbrough said they will likely “continue until they feel they didn’t need that string to bring people in”.
Shoppers, without a permanent chief executive since Jurgen Schreiber left in February, is hunting for a replacement but did not say on Thursday when a new CEO might be announced. It said in April that it was in the final stages of the search.
Second-quarter profit rose to C$148 million ($157 million), or 68 Canadian cents a share, from C$146 million, or 67 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 1.4 percent to C$2.39 billion.
Analysts on average were looking for earnings of 67 Canadian cents on revenue of C$2.44 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Front-of-store sales were up 3.8 percent at C$1.24 billion. On a same-store basis, front-of-store sales rose 2.4 percent. Prescription sales fell 1 percent to C$1.15 billion.
The company’s shares, which are up 15 percent in the last 52 weeks, closed 1.3 percent lower at C$40.90 on Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
$1=$0.94 Canadian Reporting by S. John Tilak; editing by Peter Galloway