Supermarket chain Ingles Markets has reported increased sales for its third quarter and nine months ended 25 June 2005, although lower margins on pharmacy and fuel contributed to reduced profits.

Net sales for the third quarter were $556.7m, compared with $537.4m in the same period last year. Sales for the nine months were $1.683bn, compared with $1.592bn a year ago. Sales grew in each of the company's departments, with the largest percentage increases in perishables, pharmacy and gasoline, it said

Easter sales occurred in the March quarter of fiscal 2005 but in the June quarter of fiscal 2004. The company estimates that, excluding the effect of the Easter holiday, third quarter 2005 comparable store sales increased 6.2%, compared to the third quarter of 2004.

Gross profit, as a percentage of sales, was 25.3% for the June 2005 quarter, compared to 26.2% for the same quarter last year. The effect of lower overall margins in the pharmacy and gasoline departments contributed to the change in gross profit as a percentage of sales. For the nine-month period, gross profit as a percentage of sales was 25.4% in 2005 compared to 25.8% in 2004. Excluding the effect of gasoline and pharmacy sales, retail grocery segment margins were higher for the nine-month 2005 period, compared to the same period of 2004.

Net income for the June 2005 quarter totalled $6.6m compared to $8.3m for the June 2004 quarter. Net income for the nine months totalled $17.2m compared to $17.9m for the year earlier period

"We are pleased with our sales growth and our customer loyalty," said CEO Robert P Ingle. "With the planned addition of three stores in the fourth quarter we remain focused on our customer. We will continue to offer popular, high-quality products in convenient, modern stores."