United Sees Minimal Impact From Whole Foods Merger

Wholesaler United Natural Foods expects only a “minor” sales impact as the result of the merger of its two largest retail customers, Whole Foods and Wild Oats.

DAYVILLE, Conn. — Wholesaler United Natural Foods here expects only a “minor” sales impact as the result of the merger of its two largest retail customers, Whole Foods and Wild Oats. “We believe that most of the consumers in the closed stores will begin shopping in other accounts that we service,” Michael Funk, chief executive officer, said in an earnings conference call Friday, days after Whole Foods acquired its rival. Wild Oats stores that are retained by Whole Foods should begin to see comparable-store increases within a year, which should minimize negative effects of the merger, Funk added. Those expectations were “baked in” to a forecast of 11% to 14% sales growth for UNFI’s 2008 fiscal year which began in late July, Funk said. United Natural experienced sales growth of 13.2% for fiscal 2007, Funk said. For the fourth quarter, sales UNFI earned $13.1 million on sales of $706.8 million. Quarterly sales increased by 14%, while net income increased 3.5%. UNFI reported annual sales of $2.75 billion.

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