Fourth quarter total net sales increased 15.3% to $369.9 million and comparable store sales increased 1.9% to $314.7 million, compared to the corresponding thirteen week period in fiscal 2011. The fourth quarter comparable store sales increase resulted from a 2.0% increase in average transaction size, partially offset by a 0.1% decrease in the number of transactions. Fiscal 2012 total net sales increased 20.0% to $1,329.1 million and comparable store sales increased 5.7% to $1,135.9 million, compared to fiscal 2011. Fiscal 2012 total net sales benefited from approximately 27 weeks, on average, of revenue per new store opening and the comparable store sales increase resulted from a 3.4% increase in the number of transactions and a 2.3% increase in average transaction size.
The Company's gross profit increased 16.5%, or $17.8 million, to $125.9 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012, compared to the corresponding thirteen week period of fiscal 2011. For the same period, the gross margin rate increased 30 basis points to 34.0% compared to the corresponding prior year period. This increase in the Company's gross margin rate was attributable to an increase in the merchandise margin, leverage in occupancy costs, and a reduction in LIFO expense. The increase in merchandise margin over the prior year includes the cycling of the Company's initial recognition of $1.4 million in gift card breakage income in the fourth quarter of 2011, which improved the 2011 fourth quarter merchandise margin by 30 basis points. For the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012, the Fresh Market realized a LIFO expense of $0.1 million, a decrease of $0.5 million, or approximately 20 basis points as a percentage of sales, over the corresponding thirteen week period of fiscal 2011. For fiscal 2012, the Company's gross profit increased 23.1%, or $84.8 million, to $451.7 million, and its gross margin rate increased 90 basis points to 34.0%, compared to the prior year period. The increase in the Company's gross margin rate for fiscal 2012 was primarily attributable to increased merchandise margin, as well as leverage in occupancy cost. For fiscal 2012, LIFO expense decreased by $1.0 million from $1.3 million in the corresponding prior year period, which positively impacted the gross margin rate by 10 basis points as a percentage of sales.
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