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Whole Foods ???

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Whole Foods ???

Postby Happy Mom » Wed Feb 10, 2016 3:20 pm

Can Whole Foods win back trust of consumers?
By Paul R. La Monica
POSTED: 02:02 PM EST Feb 10, 2016 UPDATED: 02:12 PM EST Feb 10, 2016
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Whole Foods
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -
There has been a whole lotta shakin' goin' on at Whole Foods lately. And not in a good way.


Investors have shunned the stock ... and shoppers don't seem to be making as many trips to the organic grocery chain either.

Whole Foods is expected to report lousy results for the last three months of 2015 -- the company's fiscal first quarter -- after the closing bell on Wednesday.

Wall Street is predicting that same-store sales, arguably the most important measure of health for a retailer, will fall for the second straight quarter.

Shares of Whole Foods are down 45% over the past 12 months. The company has been unable to shake off its Whole Paycheck reputation -- the perception that its products are way overpriced.


Whole Foods no longer has the natural market to itself. It faces tough competition from much bigger retailers such as Walmart, Target, Costco and supermarket china Kroger as well as organic rivals like Trader Joe's, Sprouts and Fresh Market.

Making matters worse, the company's image was damaged last year following a slew of negative publicity.

Whole Foods was accused of overcharging customers for prepackaged items in New York City. The company eventually apologized and settled with regulators in the Big Apple. But sales took a big hit as a result of the allegations.


It didn't help that Whole Foods had to deal with all this negative baggage (paper not plastic please!) last year.

A listeria scare: Whole Foods recalled blue cheese and various salad bar items in two separate incidents last October.

A cheap labor scandal: Whole Foods decided to stop selling products made from a supplier that used inmate workers after an activist pointed out how poorly the prisoners were being paid.

Asparagus water: An employee at a Whole Foods near L.A. mistakenly put 3 sticks of asparagus in 16-ounce bottles of water ... and slapped a $5.99 price tag on them. HBO's John Oliver had a field day with this. (CNN and HBO are corporate cousins.)

So investors are hoping that Whole Foods can put all this aside them. It needs to be known again as the place to go for quality boneless pork butt ... and not as the butt of jokes from late night comedians.

Same-store sales growth

First quarter of 2015: Up 4.5% First quarter of 2016 forecast: Down 2.1%

Whole Foods must prove to Wall Street that it can convince customers to come back and spend more.

The fact that same-store sales are expected to fall further than they did last quarter -- they were down 0.2% from July through September -- is not a good sign.

Analysts are expecting same-store sales to drop again in the second quarter ... albeit by a more modest 1.1%. But investors will want to know when Whole Foods expects same-store sales to start rising again.

Overall revenue

First quarter of 2015: $4.67 billion First quarter of 2016 forecast: $4.81 billion

Total sales should climb a little bit because Whole Foods has been opening new stores. It has 436 now compared to 408 at this time a year ago.

But sales have slowed dramatically. Whole Foods used to routinely post revenue growth in the double digits. Not any more.

The company might be able to rejuvenate its top line with a new store format called 365 by Whole Foods.

Whole Foods is making a gamble on smaller stores in urban areas with cheaper products. It's an attempt to get younger customers who may avoid Whole Foods because of the high prices.

The first 365 stores are expected to open later this year. But some analysts worry that Whole Foods may simply wind up competing with itself and steal sales from existing stores in big cities.

Profit

First quarter of 2015: $167 million, or 46 cents per share First quarter of 2016 forecast: $140 million, or 40 cents per share

It's never encouraging to see profits go down. But Wall Street may forgive the company if earnings actually beat forecasts.

Whole Foods missed earnings estimates in the previous two quarters. A third time will certainly not be a charm for the company.

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