May 17, 2002
Mr. Jonathan Katz
Securities and Exchange Commission
450 Fifth Street NW
Washington, DC 20549
Re: File No. S7-08-02
Proposed Rule Release No. 33-8089
Wild Oats Markets, Inc. is one of the largest retailers of organic and natural foods in the United States, with 103 stores in the U.S. and Canada. We are publicly traded on the Nasdaq National Market under the symbol "OATS". We have more than $75 million in public float. We have read and wish to comment on Proposed Rule 33-8089, Acceleration of PeriodicReport Filing and Disclosure Concerning Web Site Access to Reports.
We acknowledge and support the need to ensure that investors and the market receive information timely, and while the information is still current and usable. We believe that current reporting requirements satisfy the timely dissemination of material information without undue delay. Moreover, we are deeply concerned that an acceleration in the time periods in which periodic reports will be filed will result in less thorough disclosure and a greater number of material errors in information presented.
Our business is geographically diverse and still very much paper driven, requiring substantial periods of time to complete the compilation of information sufficient to finalize our financial information at the end of each reporting period. Invoices for the thousands of products delivered to each of our stores on a daily basis are delivered in paper format by the vendors' driver. The invoices must be logged into the computer system at each store, and the information then transmitted to our home office. The information is then reconciled before year end and quarter end period reports may be completed. It generally takes up to 60 days for year end period reports, and 30 days for quarter end reports to be reconciled and considered complete in sufficient detail to allow for review by our auditors. Generally, audit committee review takes place just prior to the time that reports are provided to our auditors. Our analysis as required by the SEC's rules as part of Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition cannot be commenced until financials are in substantially complete condition, to allow us to discuss patterns relating to former performance and developing trends in future performance. Given the importance in our industry of slight percentage variations in performance period-over-period, it is important that we not commence our narrative until we are confident in the quality of the financial information we are discussing.
To accelerate reporting as proposed by your release raises substantial concerns that we will not be able to provide the quality and depth of disclosure that the SEC has sought from MD&A. Errors in financial reporting will result in errors in disclosure, and neither will provide a greater benefit to the investor by accelerating the timing of reporting by 15 to 30 days. For that reason, Wild Oats Markets, Inc. respectfully requests that the SEC not adopt the proposed release.
In response to the questions posed by the SEC in the release, we respond as follows:
In conclusion, we respectfully request that the SEC not adopt release 33-8089. Thank you.
Freya R. Brier
Vice President Legal and General Counsel
Wild Oats Markets, Inc.
Cc: Edward Dunlap, CFO
Nancy Casey, Controller