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    Whole Foods Posts Higher Earnings, Sales

    AUSTIN, Texas -- Organic and natural foods retailer Whole Foods Markets, Inc. on Wednesday reported strong gains in third-quarter sales and earnings, partly due to the inclusion of Easter sales in the quarter.

    AUSTIN, Texas -- Organic and natural foods retailer Whole Foods Markets, Inc. on Wednesday reported strong gains in third-quarter sales and earnings, partly due to the inclusion of Easter sales in the quarter.

    The company said net income in the quarter ended July 6 totaled $28.7 million, or 45 cents per diluted share, up from $22.1 million, or 36 cents, a year earlier.

    Sales for the 12-week period increased 15 percent to $749 million. This increase was driven by 11 percent weighted average year-over-year square footage growth and comparable store sales growth of 7.6 percent, the company said. Sales in identical stores (excluding one relocated store and two major store expansions) increased 7.0 percent for the quarter.

    "We are pleased with our comparable store sales increase during the quarter, given our tough 10.5 percent comparison in the prior year. These results are consistent with our 18 percent two-year average comp for the past four years," said John Mackey, chairman, president, and c.e.o. of Whole Foods Markets.

    On Oct. 11, 2002, United Natural Foods acquired Blooming Prairie Cooperative, a cooperative natural foods distributor in which the company was a member, for cash consideration of $30 million.

    For fiscal year 2004, Whole Foods said it expects total sales growth to be at the low end of the 15 percent to 20 percent range. The company expects comparable store sales growth of 7 percent to 9 percent and weighted average square footage growth of 10 percent to 11 percent relating to the opening of 12 to 15 new stores.

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