(Nov. 21) Whole Foods is wasting no time putting its mark on Wild Oats.

Chief executive officer John Mackey said Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Markets Inc. plans to spend $40 million to $50 million remodeling stores it acquired from Boulder, Colo.-based Wild Oats Markets Inc. for $565 million in August.

Mackey said nine Wild Oats stores have been closed. The retailer plans to close one more in the first quarter of 2008 and seven more over the next few years when new Whole Foods stores open in the same markets.

Two Wild Oats stores already have been closed temporarily for major renovations, and Mackey said some stores will be rebranded under the Whole Foods banner by early next year.

Mackey said the merger will benefit the company’s customers, vendors and shareholders, in part through cost reductions and increased purchasing power.

“Customers in Wild Oats stores are already experiencing an improved shopping experience thanks to expanded product offerings, particularly on the fresh food side as well as price cuts on over 1,000 items,” Mackey said Nov. 20 during the company’s fourth quarter conference call. “We’re already directly sourcing and distributing produce, seafood, bakery and prepared food items to stores, which has raised the quality of perishable offerings significantly.”

The purchase of Wild Oats, which was delayed by court battles with the Federal Trade Commission, gives Whole Foods a total of 276 stores and moved the retailer into 15 new markets and five new states.

“Words can’t fully express how excited we all are to have finally completed our merger with Wild Oats,” Mackey said.

Whole Foods, which opened eight new stores in the quarter, reported that sales increased 24.7% to $1.7 billion in the quarter. For the year, sales increased 13.2% to $6.5 billion.

Despite increased sales, Whole Foods profits were lower than a year ago in the quarter and the 52-week period due to costs related to the Wild Oats acquisition.

For the quarter, net profits were $33.9 million or 24 cents a share, down from $39.8 million and 28 cents a share in the year ago period. For the year, profits were $182.7 million or $1.29 a share, down from $203.8 million or $1.41 a share in 2006. Mackey said Whole Foods expects growth of 25% to 30% in fiscal 2008, with Wild Oats accounting for 10% of that growth. Same store sales growth is expected to range from 7.5% to 9.5%, he said.

New Whole Foods stores already have opened in Rhode Island, Arizona, Tennessee and California is fiscal 2008, and additional openings are expected to be announced in February. Openings and relocations are expected to cost $80 million to $90 million in fiscal 2008, Mackey said.