By and and  on May 2, 2008

PALM BEACH, Fla. — The sun shone brightly at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Annual Meeting this week, as the industry did its best to chase away the proverbial storm clouds that for some marked the first part of 2008.

A number of consumer product firms, plagued by sky-high oil prices and financially strapped consumers, felt the pinch of a downward economy in the first quarter. Beauty sales in particular took a hit. After growing 4.4 percent from 2005 to 2006 and 3.5 percent from 2006 to 2007, sales inched up only 1.5 percent for the 52-week period ended April 19, 2008, according to ACNielsen data (excluding Wal-Mart). The bigger picture is painted with units dropping 2 percent. And, several manufacturing companies in attendance, including Kao Corp. and L'Oréal, had just reported weaker than usual quarterly results.

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