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Whole Foods Plans 1200 Stores in U.S.

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The co-chief executives of Whole Foods Market, Inc. told CNBC that the company is planning to expand operations to 1200 stores across the U.S. At present, it operates about one-third of the targeted stores globally.

The company’s announcement came after the opening of a 56,000 square feet market named Whole Foods Third and 3rd in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn in New York.

The company had accelerated the pace of opening new stores over the past three years, with a long-term target of expanding to 1,000 stores in Canada and the United Kingdom. The latest report by CNBC adds more color to the company’s confidence to expand globally.

Being one of the leading natural and organic foods supermarkets, Whole Foods offers investors one of the strongest growth profiles in the industry banking on its strong brand image, and marketing and merchandising expertise. The stock is poised to surge once the economy revives and the demand for healthier and natural food improves.

The stringent cost-control measures, effective inventory management, and improved store-level performance facilitated Whole Foods to register 7% growth in the bottom line during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013. The company in the last 4 quarters has outperformed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by an average of 2.8%.

Whole Foods envisions earnings per share in the range of $1.65 to $1.69 per share, portraying a year-over-year jump of 12% to 15%. The company also has been revamping its pricing strategy and concentrating more on value offerings, while maintaining healthy margins. In the last 3 fiscal years, gross margin has been in the range of 34.8%¬–35.5%.

This America’s first national “Certified Organic” grocer has been spurring its sales through new store openings, acquisitions and comparable-store sales growth. During the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013, its revenues climbed 2% to $2,976 million. Management projects an escalation of 11%-13% in total sales for fiscal 2014.

Currently, Whole Foods carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). Better-ranked stocks in the retail-supermarket industry include J. Sainsbury plc (JSAIY - Free Report) , with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), Harris Teeter Supermarkets, Inc. and Carrefour SA (CRRFY - Free Report) , both carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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