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Whole Foods Expansion on Track

AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market here said Wednesday it is on track to open between 24 and 27 new stores this year and 28 to 32 more next year, with plans to continue to accelerate the pace of new-store openings every year for the next several years.

“We may not get to [the company's goal of] 1,000 stores within this decade,” John Mackey, chairman and co-chief executive officer, said, “but it's possible it will happen before I hang them up.”

He said the company does not anticipate making any major acquisitions just to gain real estate, “but we are opportunistic acquirers, and we might consider it if the right deal arose at the right price to enter a new marketplace .”

The 317-store chain has 69 stores in development, equal to 2.4 million square feet, or 20% of the 12 million square feet it currently operates, Walter Robb, co-CEO, told analysts during a conference call to discuss financial results for the first quarter ended Jan. 15.

For the 16-week quarter, net income rose 33.4% to $118.3 million, while sales rose 12.9% to $3.4 billion and comparable-store sales increased 8.7%.  Robb said Whole Foods has sustained its sales momentum into the second quarter, with comps for the first three weeks of the quarter up 9.4%, though that number may not be sustainable throughout the quarter, he noted.

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