US natural and organic foods retailer Wild Oats Markets has reported a 63.7% increase in quarterly net income, as sales were boosted by the grocery strike in southern California.

The company posted net income of US$2.4m, or 8 cents per share, for the first quarter of 2004, compared to $1.4m, or 5 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2003.

Wild Oats Markets said the increase in net income was due to higher net sales and continued store-level expense management, partially offset by pre-tax charges related to asset write-offs, restructuring charges and accelerated depreciation for the planned closure or relocation of distribution centres, warehouses and stores.

Net sales for the quarter were $263.8m, up 11.8% compared with the first quarter of 2003. Comparable store sales in the first quarter of 2004 were up 8.5% compared to the prior year’s first quarter. The company said the increase in sales in the first quarter can largely be attributed to the benefit from the southern California grocery strike, without which estimated same-store sales in this year’s first quarter would have been up 3.6%.