CVS executives knew that some of their sales would go up in smoke when they decided last year to stop selling cigarettes. The press release announcing that all 7,600 CVS stores nationwide would stop selling all tobacco products acknowledged that sales would take a hit. Still, the company said, “This is the right thing to do.”
The costs of the decision are now becoming clear. CVS Health’s general merchandise sales slumped 7.8 percent last quarter on a same-store basis, the company said Tuesday. The company claims non-pharmacy sales would have stayed the same if tobacco sales — and the other products cigarette buyers added to their baskets — were removed from sales figures for the same quarter in 2014.
Same-store sales in the pharmacy category climbed 4.1 percent, boosting overall same-store sales growth to 0.5 percent compared with the second quarter of last year, down from a 1.2 percent year-over-year increase the previous quarter. Net revenue overall grew by 7.4 percent to $37.2 billion, helped by pharmacy services revenue that surged 11.9 percent ($2.6 billion) to $24.4 billion. The company has reportedly increased its market share in the health and beauty categories (it did, however, narrow its full-year earnings forecast).
So even as the move to drop cigarettes has cost the company, its bet on health as the source of future growth may be starting to pay off. CVS stock dropped in the wake of its earnings announcement, but shares are still up more than 15 percent on the year and 44 percent over the past 12 months.
President Trump announced on Thursday the creation of a National Council for the American Worker, charged with developing “a national strategy for training and retraining workers for high-demand industries,” his daughter Ivanka wrote in The Wall Street Journal. A report from the president’s National Council on Economic Advisers earlier this week made it clear that the U.S. currently spends less public money on job programs than many other developed countries.
Most business economists in the U.S. expect the economy to keep chugging along over the next three months, with rising corporate sales driving additional hiring and wage increases for workers.
The tax cuts, however, don’t seem to be playing a role in hiring and investment plans. And the trade conflicts stirred up by the Trump administration are having a negative influence, with the majority of economists at goods-producing firms who replied to the most recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics saying that their companies were putting investments on hold as they wait to see how things play out.
The Republican tax bill signed into law late last year imposed a 21 percent tax on employees at non-profits who earn more than $1 million a year. According to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education cited by Bloomberg, there were 12 presidents of public universities who received compensation of at least $1 million in 2017, with James Ramsey of the University of Louisville topping the list at $4.3 million. Endowment managers could also get hit with the tax, as could football coaches, some of whom earn substantially more than the presidents of their institutions.
The federal budget deficit rose by 16 percent in the first nine months of the 2018 fiscal year, which began last October. The shortfall came to $607 billion, compared to $523 billion in the same period the year before, according to a U.S. Treasury report released Thursday and reported by Bloomberg. Both revenue and spending rose, but spending rose faster. Revenues came to $2.54 trillion, up 1.3 percent from the same nine-month period in 2017, while spending came to $3.15 trillion, up 3.9 percent.