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    Ingles Sees Higher First-quarter Sales

    ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Regional grocer Ingles Markets Inc. today said its net sales in the first quarter of fiscal year 2004 were $534.3 million, a 7.9 percent increase from the first quarter of fiscal 2003.

    ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Regional grocer Ingles Markets Inc. today said its net sales in the first quarter of fiscal year 2004 were $534.3 million, a 7.9 percent increase from the first quarter of fiscal 2003. Comparable store sales were up 6.3 percent for the same period.

    Gross profit dollars for the first quarter, which ended Dec. 27, 2003, increased 1.2 percent over last year. However, as a percentage of sales, gross profit margin decreased to 24.7 percent versus 26.3 percent for the same period last year.

    Robert P. Ingle, chairman and c.e.o., noted that the company introduced the Ingles Advantage Savings and Rewards Card at the beginning of the quarter, and said the card was well received by customers.

    "Our gross profit percentage suffered due to the increased promotional activity, but we achieved an increase in gross profit dollars," Ingle said. "Operating and administrative expenses declined as a percentage of sales due to the increased sales volume. The decrease would have been larger, but the December 2003 quarter included expenses of approximately $1.4 million in connection with the introduction of the card.

    "We are excited about the reception of the card program and the corresponding increase in sales," Ingle added. "We believe that it will allow us to better reward and retain our loyal customers. We intend to keep our focus on increasing sales by offering value to our loyal customers, operating quality stores and controlling costs and improving margins wherever possible."

    For the balance of the fiscal year, Ingles expects to open two new stores, one of which will be leased and one owned, complete one major remodel, and add approximately eight new fuel stations on existing store sites. In addition, Ingles plans to purchase six store sites for future store expansion.

    Ingles Markets operates 198 supermarkets in six Southeastern states. In conjunction with its supermarket operations, the company also operates 73 neighborhood shopping centers, all but 15 of which contain an Ingles supermarket.

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