US retailer Ingles Markets booked a drop in full-year profit today (7 December) on lower fuel prices and higher costs due to store development.

Net income for fiscal year ended 26 September totalled US$28.8m compared with a net income of $52.1m in the previous year.

Net sales, however, rose to $3.25bn for the 12-month period, an increase of 0.4% on the comparable period of 2008.

The retail price for fuel per gallon price was 37% lower but, excluding those prices, grocery segment comparable-store sales increased 5.4%.

Excluding fuel, the number of customer transactions increased 7.9% although the average transaction size fell by 53 cents.

The company said it believes customers are eating at home more often and are changing purchasing habits towards private label and lower priced products.

"Our sales have continued to grow during this recession and we've taken care of our financing for future growth and increased profitability. These are important long-term goals for Ingles," said Robert Ingle, CEO of Ingles Markets.

For the fourth quarter, net income decreased sharply to $5.19m from $10.46m in the previous year, while net sales dropped to $830.13m from $842.79m in the fourth quarter of the prior fiscal year. Excluding fuel, sales grew 1.5%.