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Byline: Marilyn Alva
As the No. 2 natural foods retailer, Wild Oats Markets had a lot to be proud of. With more than 100 stores in 1999, it was catching up to market leader Whole Foods Market.
Wall Street was won over, too. Its shares soared fourfold from February 1997 to September 1999.
But the crop went bad. Same-store sales fell 2.6% last year. Earnings dropped 29%. Restructuring charges of $44 million resulted in a net loss of $15 million for 2000.
In March, co-founder Mike Gilliland gave up his job as CEO to Perry Odak, an ex-Ben & Jerry's CEO. At least 20 stores closed.
Whole Foods, meanwhile, continues to prosper under John Mackey, who opened the first store in 1980 in Austin, Texas. Same-store sales grew 8.6% last year and profits 9%.