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Whole Foods cuts outlook, shares fall

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wholeNEW YORK — Whole Foods reported a quarterly profit that fell short of Wall Street expectations on Tuesday, and shares of the upscale grocer sank after it cut its outlook for the year.

The company, based in Austin, Texas, said Tuesday that sales at established locations rose 4.5 percent, hurt by the shift of Easter to the third quarter this year.

Whole Foods Market Inc. has more than 370 locations and has grown in popularity as people look to eat foods marketed as natural or organic. More recently, however, the chain is facing tougher competition from traditional supermarkets and big-box retailers that have stepped up their own organic and natural offerings.

For the quarter, Whole Foods said it earned $142 million, or 38 cents per share, which was unchanged from last year. But analysts expected 41 cents per share in the latest period.

Revenue rose to $3.32 billion, but also fell short of the $3.34 billion Wall Street expected.

The company trimmed its sales and profit outlook for the year, sending its stock down nearly 10 percent in after-market trading.

It now expects to earn between $1.52 and $1.56 per share for the year, down from its previous forecast of $1.58 to $1.65 per share. Sales at established locations are expected to rise between 5 and 5.5 percent.

Whole Foods had previously forecast the figure would rise by 5.5 to 6.2 percent.

The company said in a statement that it believes its “long-term growth prospects remain strong.”

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