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AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 9, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Whole Foods Market, Inc. (Nasdaq:WFMI) today reported results for the 16-week first quarter ended January 16, 2011. Sales for the quarter increased 14% to $3.0 billion. Comparable and identical store sales increased 9.1%, or 12.6% and 11.6% on a two-year stacked basis, respectively. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization ("EBITDA") increased 26% from the prior year to $234.3 million, income available to common shareholders increased 79% to $88.7 million, and diluted earnings per share increased 59% to $0.51. Results included a LIFO charge of $2.0 million versus $0.2 million in the prior year; relocation, store closure and lease termination costs of $3.1 million versus $12.4 million in the prior year; and net interest income of $0.3 million versus net interest expense of $8.8 million in the prior year.
"Our identical store sales growth continued to gain momentum for the fifth consecutive quarter on both a one- and two-year basis and at 9.1% is the highest we have produced in over four years," said Walter Robb, co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods Market. "Based on our consistently strong top- and bottom-line results, along with ongoing signs of increasing consumer confidence, we are raising our sales and earnings outlook for the year. Our new range for identical store sales growth of 7% to 9% appropriately reflects that we have yet to cycle over our toughest comparisons, while also allowing for the possibility that our 9% year-to-date results could be sustainable especially given the likelihood of some positive impact from inflation."
The Company's comparable and identical store sales results for the last five quarters and first three weeks of the second quarter through February 6, 2011 are shown in the following table.
Comparable store sales growth
Identical store sales growth
Sequential basis point change
For the quarter, the LIFO charge was $2.0 million versus $0.2 million in the prior year, a negative impact of six basis points. Excluding LIFO, gross profit increased 29 basis points to 34.6% of sales driven by an improvement in occupancy costs as a percentage of sales. Direct store expenses improved 32 basis points to 26.3% of sales due to leverage in depreciation, healthcare costs and wages as a percentage of sales. As a result, store contribution, excluding LIFO, improved 60 basis points to 8.3% of sales.