May 30, 2012 / 2:47 PM / in 5 years

Fresh Market first-quarter beats Street estimates, shares up

(Reuters) - Specialty grocer Fresh Market Inc TFM.O posted better-than-expected quarterly results on improved margins and forecast a higher full-year profit, sending its shares up as much as 14 percent.

The company expects full-year per-share profit to increase 20 to 25 percent to between $1.28 and $1.34 per share this fiscal.

First-quarter net income rose to $19.3 million, or 40 cents per share, from $13.5 million, or 28 cents per share, a year ago.

Analysts on average had expected the company to earn 36 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales at Fresh Market rose 22.8 percent to $324.8 million, ahead of the $310.4 million analysts had expected.

Gross margins increased to 34.7 percent from 33.87, last year.

Same-store sales at Fresh Market, which operates 116 stores in 21 U.S. states, rose more than 8 percent during the quarter.

Retailers like Fresh Market and Whole Foods Market Inc WFM.O cater to health-conscious and generally upscale shoppers, and have outperformed cheaper-priced rivals like Kroger Co (KR.N), Safeway Inc SWY.N and Supervalu Inc (SVU.N).

Whole Foods Market Inc WFM.N also rang up a quarterly profit beat earlier this month and raised its full-year earnings forecast.

Fresh Market shares were up 11 percent at $54.53 on Wednesday, making it the third-biggest percentage gainer on the Nasdaq.

Reporting by Meenakshi Iyer in Bangalore; Editing by Sreejiraj Eluvangal

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