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    Wild Oats Reports Fourth-quarter Profit, Plans for New Stores

    BOULDER, Colo. - Natural and organic foods retailer Wild Oats Markets Inc. on Wednesday said it swung to a quarterly profit as the company cut costs.

    BOULDER, Colo. - Natural and organic foods retailer Wild Oats Markets Inc. on Wednesday said it swung to a quarterly profit as the company cut costs.

    The Boulder, Colorado retailer posted fourth-quarter net income of $2.6 million, or 9 cents a share, compared with a loss of $2.8 million, or 11 cents a share in the same period a year earlier. Results included a 1 cent-per share after-tax charge related to tax liabilities.

    Sales during the quarter fell slightly to $221.8 million from $222.1 million in the year-ago quarter.

    "The major initiatives we successfully completed in 2002 helped us to return to profitability earlier than expected and to develop an infrastructure for sustainable, long-term growth," said Perry D. Odak, president and CEO. "However, we realize that we are experiencing some short-term operational disruptions related to the aggressive strategies implemented in 2002 to turn this company around."

    Odak cited several initiatives the company has been implementing: SKU rationalization, transition to a new primary distributor, substantial operational improvements, development of new store prototypes for both of its store concepts, implementation of centralized purchasing, and reductions in direct store expense and overall inventory.

    The company said it expects to open 10 stores in 2003, 15 to 20 stores in 2004 and 20 to 25 stores in 2005.

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