Whole Foods Market, Inc. (WFM - Analyst Report) posted lower-than-expected first-quarter fiscal 2014 results and trimmed its sales and earnings forecast, thereafter.
The quarterly earnings came in at 42 cents a share falling short of the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a couple of cents. Revenue for this natural and organic foods supermarket chain operator came in at $4,239 million, which also missed Zacks’ projection of $4,289 million. Whole Foods’ comparable-store sales rose 5.4% in the quarter but fell short of its expectation, and shriveled 50 basis points sequentially.
Increasing competition and aggressive pricing weighed upon the company’s performance as more and more companies are entering into the Organic & Natural food business, specifically The Kroger Co. (KR - Analyst Report).
Following the results, Whole Foods lowered its outlook. Since Nov 2013, the company lowered its outlook for the second time. Management now projects an escalation of 11% to 12% in total sales for fiscal 2014 on the back of an expected 5.5% to 6.2% rise in comparable-store sales. Earlier, management had forecasted 11% to 13% sales growth buoyed by a 5.5% to 7% rise in comparable-store sales.
Management now envisions earnings in the band of $1.58 to $1.65 per share, portraying a year-over-year jump of 7% to 12%, down from a range of $1.65 to $1.69 forecasted earlier.
The softness in results triggered a downtrend in the estimates, as analysts become less constructive on the stock’s future performance. The current Zacks Consensus Estimate for fiscal 2014 and 2015 tumbled 3.6% and 4.5% to $1.62 and $1.90, respectively.
However, Whole Foods did manage to register growth of 10% and 8% in the top and bottom lines. Stringent cost control, effective inventory management and improved store-level performance helped the company achieve improved sales and profit. The company has been revamping its pricing strategy and concentrating more on value offerings, but the pricing technique adopted to gain market share may hurt margins going forward.
Currently, Whole Foods carries a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell).
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