Walgreen

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The country’s largest drug chain, with 7,697 total stores, Walgreen continues to perform well. Its April 2010 purchase of Duane Reade has paid off already: The acquisition improved sales and accounted for about half of the company’s growth.The company also is building its house brand, having launched a major advertising campaign to promote Walgreen-branded products earlier this year. Online growth is another focus: The chain bought Drugstore.com in March for $429 million.

Wall Street expectations are high, though, and when Walgreen’s latest earnings disappointed, its shares dipped. —S.D.

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Kroger

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Higher food prices aren’t hurting Kroger so far — the grocery chain has managed to pass along higher costs to shoppers. What’s more, sales are on the rise.In fact, Kroger beat analyst expectations this March, which the company attributed to more customers coming in to buy food and fuel at the gas stations it added to its portfolio in 2009.

Kroger has also started looking into stocking its fish freezers more ethically. In April, it announced a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to stop selling endangered seafood by the year 2015. —S.D.

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CVS Caremark

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After 36 years at CVS — including 16 at the top — longtime CEO Thomas Ryan stepped down in March. His successor: Larry Merlo, a 20-year company veteran best known for integrating many of the company’s recent acquisitions, including the Revco and Eckerd chains.Merlo inherits the largest pharmacy health care provider in the U.S., with more than 7,100 CVS retail outlets, a leading pharmacy benefits manager, and a health clinic group that includes the fast-growing MinuteClinic chain. His first order of business: breathing new life into CVS stock, which still trades 17% below its 2008 high. —P.N.

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