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Jamba's sales turn positive for the first time since 2007

Company expects upswing to continue in 2011

Jamba Inc. reported a slight rise in corporate same-store sales in the fourth quarter, marking the first upswing since 2007.

The Emeryville, Calif.-based company said Thursday that same-store sales increased 0.2 percent at corporate Jamba Juice locations for the Dec. 28-ended fourth quarter. Jamba said sales have shown sequential improvement for six of the past seven quarters, and the positive trend is expected to continue.

Jamba expects same-store sales to grow between 2 percent and 4 percent for the year. The company also projects with 50 to 70 new units to open in tradition, non-traditional and express formats.

James White, Jamba Inc.’s chief executive, credited the company’s ongoing “BLEND plan” turnaround efforts, which have included refranchising more than 150 locations, international expansion into Canada and South Korea, a growing focus on licensed branded retail products, and the addition of new food and drink options at Jamba Juice stores.

In 2010, for example, the 743-unit chain launched new wraps, salads, flatbreads and a sandwich to its food lineup, which followed the successful debut of steel-cut oatmeal. New beverages have included organic hot teas and brewed-by-the-cup coffees, and hot blended drinks.

The chain recently announced the test of frozen yogurt in 22 stores in Northern California. Earlier this week, it also launched new probiotic fruit and yogurt blends in flavors such as Vibrant Blueberry, Strawberries Alive and Thrivin’ Mango. Probiotic boosts can also be added to any Jamba Juice smoothie.

In its Oct. 5-ended third quarter, Jamba reported a net loss of $1.4 million, or 2 cents per share, compared with a profit of $2.1 million, or 4 cents per share, in the year-ago third quarter. The decline included non-cash charges of $1.4 million related to the refranchising and the closure of seven locations during the third quarter.

Same-store sales dropped 2.7 percent at corporate locations during the third quarter, but White said at the time that sales turned positive in September, a trend that continued into the fourth quarter.

The Jamba Juice chain includes 351 corporate stores and 392 franchise locations.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

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