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BOULDER, Colo. - Wild Oats Markets, Inc., a national natural and organic foods retailer, today announced financial results for the first quarter ended March 27. The company generated net income of $2.4 million, or $0.08 per diluted share, on first-quarter sales of $263.8 million.
Net sales for the quarter were $263.8 million, up 11.8 percent compared with $236.0 million in the first quarter of 2003. This sales increase was bolstered by the positive impact from the California United Food and Commercial Workers strike against conventional grocery retailers, which continued to benefit the grocer's five Wild Oats and 17 Henry's stores in Southern California through February 2004.
Additionally, six new stores added to the company's portfolio since the first quarter of 2003 contributed to the year-over-year sales increase. The positive contribution of new stores more than offset the sale and/or closure of seven stores year-over-year, one of which was a relocation in Nashville, Tenn. One new Wild Oats store opened in the first quarter, on Jan. 14 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Wild Oats ended the first quarter with total square footage of 2.2 million, which is a 2.0 percent increase compared with the first quarter of 2003.
Comparable-store sales in the first quarter of 2004 were up 8.5 percent, compared with a decline in same-store sales of 0.9 percent in the first quarter of 2003. The increase in sales in the first quarter can largely be attributed to the benefit from the Southern California conventional grocery strike, without which estimated same-store sales in this year's first quarter would have been up 3.6 percent.
The company experienced improvements in comparable-store sales in all regions in the United States and Canada during the first quarter even while undergoing the transition to United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) as its primary distributor and consolidating two warehouses into a new perishables distribution center in Riverside, Calif. Comparable stores' customer traffic increased 2.7 percent, and the average transaction per customer increased 5.8 percent in the first quarter of 2004.
"We are pleased with our sales results in the first quarter, particularly because the growth was broad-based and not isolated to a specific region of the country," said Perry D. Odak, president and c.e.o. "Although it is still early, we are encouraged by the fact that post-strike customer retention and sales in our 22 Southern California stores have exceeded our expectations and have exceeded historical levels for stores impacted by labor strikes. We believe this can be attributed to our strong emphasis on customer service and marketing programs that continue to attract customers to our stores in that region."
Wild Oats is on schedule to open 13 additional stores over the next nine months. The new stores in development include five Henry's stores in the greater Los Angeles area and in metropolitan Phoenix, and five Wild Oats stores in Cincinnati; Vancouver, Wash.; Indianapolis; Salt Lake City; and Scottsdale, Ariz. Wild Oats Markets currently has leases or letters of intent signed for 31 new sites opening in 2004 and 2005, and expects it will achieve its new store development plans of adding 20 new stores in 2005.