UPDATE 1-99 Cents Only raises prices to 99.99 cents

(Updates throughout, adds dateline)

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 8 (Reuters) - 99 Cents Only Stores NDN.N will raise its prices to 99.99 cents, the discounter said on Monday, due to inflation that has crimped the retailer's profit in recent quarters.

“In response to dramatically rising costs and inflation, 99 Cents Only Stores is forced to raise its price by almost one full penny to 99.99 cents, which is still just below a dollar,” said Chief Executive Eric Schiffer in a statement.

99 Cents Only Stores, which operates some 277 stores in California, Texas, Nevada and Arizona, sells a variety of goods, from fresh produce and beauty products to back-to-school items and cleaning supplies.

Since its founding in 1982, no prices have ever exceeded 99 cents and many items are 3 for 99 cents.

“This nearly one cent price raise will help 99 Cents Only Stores offset some of the increased costs of doing business, including higher fuel and commodity costs, while still maintaining its leading position as America’s Inflation Fighter,” Schiffer said.

In its most recent quarter, the company posted a net loss of $1.51 million, despite a 4 percent rise in sales, compared with a year-earlier net profit of $2.96 million.

Food and energy prices have surged this year and U.S. grocers and packaged food companies are struggling to keep up with the extra costs, with many raising retail prices or reducing package sizes.

The shares of 99 Cents Only closed on the New York Stock Exchange at $9.53, up 5 percent, or 45 cents. (Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Andre Grenon)