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Whole Foods’ sales decline again, grocer cuts forecast

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NEW YORK (AP) — Whole Foods says sales fell 2.4 percent at established locations, marking the sixth straight quarter of declines as it faces competitive pressures.

The company said the figure was also down for the current quarter, and it cut its sales and profit forecast for the year.

The Austin, Texas-based grocer has said it is working on better distinguishing itself from rivals, while also appealing to more customers with lower prices. It has been cutting costs and late last year got rid of its co-CEO structure, making co-founder John Mackey the sole chief executive. The company is also pinning its hopes on an offshoot chain, 365 by Whole Foods, that focuses on lower costs and convenience.

For the three months ended Jan. 15, Whole Foods earned $95 million, or 30 cents per share. Not including one-time items, it earned 39 cents per share, in line with expectations. Total revenue for its first fiscal quarter was $4.92 billion. Analysts expected $4.98 billion, according to FactSet.

Whole Foods Market Inc. now expects sales at established locations to fall as much as 2.5 percent. It previously said it expected the figure to be flat to down 2 percent. The figure is considered a key indicator of financial health, because it strips out the volatility of newly opened and closed stores. Earnings for the year are now expected to be $1.33 per share or better. It previously forecast earnings of $1.42 per share or more.

The company’s stock was down 3.9 percent at $28.25 in after-hours trading.

Whole Foods has more than 460 locations in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.

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