Shares in Whole Foods Market, the US organics retailer, dropped by more than 9% yesterday (13 May) as the company reported a fall in second-quarter earnings and sales.

The company, which has suffered amid the economic downturn, booked net income of US$35.3m for the three months to 12 April. The result compared to net income of US$40m a year earlier.

Sales were almost flat, dipping from US$1.87bn to US$1.86bn as Whole Foods saw identical-store sales fall 5.8%.

Nevertheless, chairman and CEO John Mackey insisted he was “pleased” with the numbers, pointing to a rise in underlying operating earnings.

“Despite flat sales year-over-year, we exhibited strong expense control leading to a 10% increase in income from operations excluding non-cash asset impairment charges,” Mackey said.

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Excluding those charges, income from operations increased 10% to US$82.7m.

Over the first six months of Whole Foods’ fiscal year, net income reached US$67.6m, against US$79.1m a year earlier. Net sales were flat at US$4.32bn. Identical-store sales fell 5.3%.

At the close of trading on the NASDAQ yesterday, Whole Foods shares stood at US$20, down almost 9.4%.