Tags: Whole Foods | grocery | retail | store

Whole Foods Profit Tops Estimates as Shoppers Snap Up Deals

Thursday, 06 Nov 2014 01:21 PM

Whole Foods Market Inc. posted fiscal fourth-quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates as the grocery-store chain slashed prices to win over bargain-hunting shoppers. The shares soared the most in about 1 1/2 years.

Net income rose 5.8 percent to $128 million, or 35 cents a share, the Austin, Texas-based company said yesterday in a statement. The average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg was 32 cents. Revenue gained 9.4 percent to $3.26 billion in the period ended Sept. 28, matching projections.

Whole Foods has focused on lowering produce prices and increasing advertising to boost revenue and draw more budget- conscious Americans. Sales at stores open at least 53 weeks rose 3.1 percent, matching the average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Consensus Metrix. Comparable-store sales were up 4.6 percent in current quarter through Nov. 2.

“Same-store sales have accelerated so far in the first quarter -- that tells people, OK, maybe business is starting to come back,” said Brian Yarbrough, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co. in St. Louis, who recommends buying the shares. “The lowering of prices is starting to work.”

The shares jumped 10 percent to $44.05 at 9:39 a.m. in New York and earlier gained as much as 11 percent for the biggest intraday increase since May 2013. Whole Foods lost 31 percent this year through yesterday, compared with a 9.5 percent gain for Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Whole Foods has been making progress cutting prices and shedding its “Whole Paycheck” image. A Bloomberg Intelligence study recently found that a basket of 97 grocery items from Whole Foods in New York City was cheaper than the same group of items from rivals such as Fresh Direct and Gristedes.

Sales Forecast

The company’s efforts to lower store prices are helping same-store sales, Co-Chief Executive Officer Walter Robb said on a conference call.

Sales this fiscal year will increase by at least 9 percent, the company said yesterday. That’s equivalent to about $15.5 billion, while analysts project $15.8 billion, on average. Profit also will rise by at least 9 percent this year, which would be about $1.70 a share, matching analysts’ estimates.

Competitors have been advertising more organic fare to boost sales. Kroger Co. sells organics including chicken, beans and milk under its Simple Truth brand. Sprouts Farmers Market Inc.’s third-quarter sales, which the company reports today, are projected to have risen 21 percent, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Whole Foods has about 400 stores in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. and is focused on expanding into new areas. The company opened 13 new locations in seven new markets in the quarter. There’s the potential for 1,200 Whole Foods stores in the U.S. long term, the company said.

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Whole Foods Market Inc. posted fiscal fourth-quarter profit that topped analysts' estimates as the grocery-store chain slashed prices to win over bargain-hunting shoppers. The shares soared the most in about 1 1/2 years.
Whole Foods, grocery, retail, store
452
2014-21-06
Thursday, 06 Nov 2014 01:21 PM
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