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Earnings Preview: United Natural Foods

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United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI - Free Report) is set to report fiscal second-quarter 2013 results before the opening bell on Feb 26. Last quarter, this specialty food distributor posted in-line results. Let’s see how things are shaping up prior to the announcement.

Growth Factors This Past Quarter

United Natural’s productivity initiatives, improved operational efficiency, acquisitions and continuous increase in demand for organic and natural food products drove the earnings in the first quarter.

The company posted double-digit revenue growth driven by rising demand for organic and natural foods. Also, its decision to divest the company's non-foods and general merchandise lines has allowed it to concentrate on its core business of the distribution of natural, organic and specialty foods. However, United Natural remains severely impacted by the continued shift in the company's customer mix which led to the gross margin decline in the quarter.

Earnings Whisper

The Zacks Consensus Estimate stands at 50 cents for the second quarter. The company is gaining momentum with growing demand for organic and natural food products. Going ahead, United Natural looks for further opportunities to enhance its position within the natural and organic industry in the U.S. and Canada and to increase its market share in the specialty products industry.

Moreover, United Natural’s strategic plan including the rollout of a national warehouse management and procurement system upgrade is expected to reduce operating expenses to offset lower gross margins in the upcoming quarters.

United Natural carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Our model states that a stock needs to have both a positive Earnings ESP (Read: Zacks Earnings ESP: A Better Method) and a Zacks Rank #1, #2 or #3 to beat earnings estimates. In addition, we caution investors against stocks with Zacks Ranks #4 and #5 (Sell-rated stocks) going into the earnings announcement, especially when the company is seeing negative estimate revisions momentum.

Other Stock to Consider

Here are some other retail/wholesale stocks, which have the right ingredients to post an earnings beat this quarter, as per our model.

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF - Free Report) , Earnings ESP of +2.59% and Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)

New York & Co (NWY - Free Report) , Earnings ESP of +12.50% and Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)

Pricesmart Inc (PSMT - Free Report) , Earnings ESP of +1.27% and Zacks Rank #3 (Hold)

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