US natural and organic foods retailer Wild Oats Markets has posted a slim third-quarter profit compared to a year-ago loss, due to stronger sales and an improved gross margin.

The company reported net income of US$82,000, or zero cents per share, for the quarter to 1 October, compared to a net loss of $7.05m, or 25 cents per share, for the year-ago period.

Net sales rose 11% to $278.5m; comparable store sales increased 6.1%.

"Our sales have continued to gain momentum and accelerated in the third quarter," said Perry Odak, president and chief executive officer. "With the new merchandising programmes we introduced, continued growth in our Wild Oats branded products and improved operational execution, we expect to finish the year with strong top-line results. Additionally, we continue to improve our ability to strike a balance between sales, promotion and gross margin. And, as a result, we are raising our estimates for EPS and EBITDA for the year."