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    Whole Foods Reports Profit Increase in 4Q

    AUSTIN, Texas - Natural foods grocery chain Whole Foods Markets Inc. on Wednesday reported an 8 percent increase in net income, aided by notable sales increases.

    AUSTIN, Texas - Natural foods grocery chain Whole Foods Markets Inc. on Wednesday reported an 8 percent increase in net income, aided by notable sales increases.

    The Austin, Texas-based grocer said it earned $23.8 million, or 38 cents a share, in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 28. That compares with a profit of $22.0 million, or 36 cents a share, a year earlier.

    Meanwhile sales for the 12-week quarter rose 18 percent to $751 million. Same-store sales rose 8.8 percent.

    "Last year we spoke of three challenges that we saw for Whole Foods Market in fiscal year 2003. These challenges included continuing to improve our operations, increasing our store development pipeline, and successfully integrating the Harry's stores into our company," said John Mackey, chairman, president and c.e.o. of Whole Foods Market. "In a year that was full of unusual events ranging from the outbreak of war, continued weakness in the economy, extreme weather across various parts of the country, and a blackout in the Northeast, we are pleased to have met these challenges and achieved such strong results for our shareholders."

    Mackey added that the Harry's stores are comping above the overall company average.

    Whole Foods announced it has recently signed leases for eight new stores, one each in Redwood City, Calif.; Red Bank, N.J.; West Hartford, Ct.; Denver, Colo.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Oakland, Calif., and two in Chicago.

    Whole Foods also said it has withdrawn recognition from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). The announcement follows actions earlier this year by team members at its Madison, Wisc., store, who presented a petition to the company requesting that the UFCW no longer be considered their official bargaining representative. Although the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had scheduled a Nov. 17 vote for the store's full team member base to decide whether the UFCW would represent them, Madison team members presented a second petition with sufficient signatures to allow the company to legally withdraw recognition from the union without holding the scheduled vote.

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