Rob Zenilman submits: In this week's Barron's, Robin Goldwyn Blumenthal notes analyst bullishness on Whole Foods Market (WFMI) in Fresh from the Farm: A Buying Opportunity. Jack Robinson, manager of the Winslow Green Growth Fund, sees the stock doubling in the next 3-5 years.
Whole Food's stock was down 17% in the last 2 weeks, despite the fact that existing stores (open for more than 1 year) experienced second quarter sales growth of 9.9%. Considering that the retail food sector gets excited about 2%-3% same store sales growth, 9.9% is out of the ballpark. Current fiscal year earnings are expected to come in at $1.40/share, up almost 15% from last year's $1.22/share.
Comments: Even though companies like Wal-Mart (WMT) are selling natural and organic foods, Whole Foods has established itself as the premium vendor in this sector. Much like the rest of the retail sector, same store sales growth is much stronger among the higher end retailers.
In addition, Whole Foods requires stores to directly support their local economy - note their program requiring stores to buy produce from at least 4 local farmers. That's nice, but not always the most cost-effective way to fill the shelves -- will consumers continue to pay a 'conscience premium' for the healthy eats at Whole Foods?