Whole Foods eyes growth in U.S. and abroad on heels of Q3

AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market sees demand for 1,000 new stores in the U.S. and thinks Canada and the U.K. hold great promise as well, based on its sales increase of 12% to $3.1 billion for the third quarter ended July 7, from $2.7 billion for the same year-ago period.

Comparable store sales increased 7.5%, and identical store sales, excluding four relocations and one expansion, increased 7.2%. Earnings excluding interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increased 17% from the prior year to $306 million or 10% of sales, net income increased 21% to $142 million, and diluted earnings per share increased 20% to $0.38.

"We are dedicated to providing communities with fresh, healthy, natural and organic food and are on track to deliver our fourth consecutive year of increases in new store openings. We continue to gain market share and see demand for 1,000 Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. alone," said Walter Robb, co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods Market. "Our outstanding operational performance is funding our growth, and our new stores are creating a cycle of innovation across the company. We have signed 50 new leases over the last 12 months, increasing our development pipeline to 94 leases, and expect accelerating square footage growth for several years to come."

For the 40-week period ended July 7, 2013, sales increased 13% to $9.9 billion from $8.8 billion for the same year-ago period. Comparable store sales increased 7.2%, and identical store sales, excluding four relocations and three expansions, increased 6.9%. EBITDA increased 18% to $948 million or 9.5% of sales, net income increased 22% to $430 million, and diluted earnings per share increased 20% to $1.15.

With consumer demand for natural and organic products continuing to increase and the company's flexibility on new store sizes, it is seeing additional market opportunities open up. The company opened four stores in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the company has opened four stores so far and expects to open eight additional stores. The company currently has 355 stores open totaling approximately 13.5 million sq. ft.

The company recently signed 12 new leases averaging 41,000 sq. ft. in size in Little Rock, Ark.; Dublin, Calif.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Walnut Creek, Calif.; Davie, Fla.; Augusta, Ga.; Lake Forest, Ill.; East Lansing, Mich.; St. Paul, Minn.; Lake Norman, N.C.; Columbus, Ohio; and Houston, Texas. These stores currently are scheduled to open in fiscal year 2014 and beyond.

Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market is a leading retailer of natural and organic foods and touts itself as America's first national "Certified Organic" grocer. Whole Foods Market counts with approximately 76,000 employees.