3 Companies Having a Rough Start to 2013

It's one thing to make a New Year's resolution -- like getting in shape --and to slowly fall off the train. One month things are okay, the next you eat a whole cake, and then, by March. you've watched every season of The Simpsons four times. But for some companies, that's not quick enough. Here are three companies that swore off fatty food, and then bought a new couch and a tub of cookie dough on January 2nd. Welcome to the Thunderdome.

Chipotle eats into profit
The most recent fall came from Chipotle (NYSE: CMG  ) , which released preliminary earnings well below the market's expectation . The Mexican food chain has been under increasing cost pressure, and has yet to make a big move to pass those costs on to the consumer. While details were thin, the cost increase probably related to the U.S. drought earlier this year, which pushed up many produce prices. Chipotle sources higher-end products for its locations, and any shift in corn costs could work its way all the way up the company's food chain.

The increase lends increased weight to David Einhorn's prediction last year that Chipotle was on the way to a slowdown. He believed that the combination of costs and competition, mainly from Jack in the Box's Qdoba brand, would put the brakes on the stock . So far this year, the stock is down 5.5% and, with the official earnings release cementing the bad news, investors shouldn't be surprised if the outlook get worse in the coming weeks.

On the bright side, Chipotle also announced that it was going to increase its catering business. That may seem like a minor move, but companies like Panera (NASDAQ: PNRA  ) have seen incredible growth through catering. Last quarter, Panera increased catering sales by 17%, bringing its year to date position up to 22%.  If Chipotle can work that revenue source, it may find some new life.

Lululemon makes a non-yoga themed pun about doing poorly
On Monday this week, Lululemon (NASDAQ: LULU  ) got hit with its second big fall of 2013, pushing the stock down 11.5% on the year. First, the company faced a downgrade from Credit Suisse, which argued that the brand was reaching a saturation point for sales in its existing stores . That means that in-store growth is going to slow down, which could lead to an increased need to discount merchandise. The analyst reporting also believed that competitive pressure from companies like Gap, which operates the cheaper Athleta line of yoga clothing, would hurt Lululemon's margins.

The stock hit its second wall on Monday, when the company confirmed its fourth quarter sales forecast, which fell almost $10 million short of the $488 million that the street was looking for . While the company had a chance to defend itself at the ICR XChange conference in Miami yesterday, it was unable to sway general sentiment.

To get back in investors' good books, the company needs to start moving faster to implement its international and product expansion plans. While they've been slowly pursuing new sports and international expansion, Lululemon needs to do more to justify its stock premium.

Barnes & Noble continues to be Barnes & Noble
Last on the list is Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS  ) , though really its newest slide began back in December. This year, it has just reiterated the reasons that the company needs to change its ways. Nook sales failed to inspire over the holidays and, as a result, the company is looking at rough sales figures . In fact, overall sales fell 11%, while Nook sales fell 12% over the holidays , with no end of danger in sight. The company is quickly burning through its brand value, and it's become clear that the fight against Amazon is a losing battle, at least as it's currently being waged.

The bright spot in Barnes & Noble's story is the outside interest that the company has been able to garner in its Nook division. Microsoft sunk $300 million into the venture last spring, and publisher Pearson jumped in with a $90 million investment in December. That investment valued the Nook division alone at close to $1.8 billion, easily more than twice Barnes & Noble's current market cap . The year 2013 looks to be a make-or-break year for the bookseller and, if management's wise, it should spin the Nook off as soon as possible to maximize the brand's value.

It can't all be bad in 2013, and The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his number one stock for this year. Find out which stock it is in our brand-new free report, "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2013." I invite you to take a copy, free for a limited time. Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.


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