Jamba (Nasdaq: JMBA ) is giving its blenders a good workout.
The 773-unit smoothie chain posted impressive quarterly results last night.
Sure, revenue fell 20% to $53 million, but investors were expecting a sharp top-line drop. The Jamba Juice parent switched to a new fiscal format, shaving three weeks off its fiscal first quarter as it goes from 16 weeks last year to 13 weeks this time around. Revenue would have inched 5% higher on a pro forma basis.
Another thing holding Jamba's top line back is that the company refranchised 42 of its stores during last year's first quarter. Transferring company-owned stores to franchisees replaces meaty revenue with high-margin franchisee royalties.
In other words, Jamba's doing better than even the pro forma metrics suggest. Comparable store sales soared 11.6% during the period, fueled by a 12.7% burst at company-owned locations and a 10.5% pop at franchisee stores. The end result is that Jamba's net loss -- and, yes, we are talking about deficits this time of year given Jamba's seasonal business -- shrank from $6.5 million to $1.5 million, or $0.03 a share. Analysts were expecting Jamba to lose twice as much money during the 13-week quarter.
Investors shouldn't be surprised by what is now the company's sixth consecutive quarter of positive comps at company-owned stores. Jamba is a company that is at its best when temperatures spike and thirsty patrons seek out icy fruit drinks. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR ) may have delivered a meaty clue last week, when the Keurig company revealed that warm weather killed sales of the company's hot cocoa and apple cider K-Cups. If folks aren't drinking warm beverages, that naturally opens the door for Jamba's ice-blended smoothies.
It was still a huge showing at the store level. The 12.7% spike in Jamba's comps stacks up well against the 7% pops at both Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) and McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) . Why compare Jamba to the baron of baristas and the world's largest restaurant operator? Well, both companies have ramped up their smoothie offerings in recent years. The arrival of Vivanno smoothies at Starbucks and the McCafe line at McDonald's may have led some to believe that Jamba would be toast. No, as the past six quarters of plump comps show, mainstream exposure of smoothies as a functional beverage is educating the marketplace.
Jamba sees positive comps for all of 2012. It expects to develop 40-50 stores this year and double its international exposure by tacking on another 10-15 stores.
Smoothies have arrived, and an unseasonably warm February and March are making it obvious.
Blended just right
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