Granola, hemp duds, environmental concern, and organic wares ... some of you might wonder what on earth those things might have to do with a profitable business. I'm here to tell you not to underestimate flower power. There's a booming industry here, and Whole Foods Market
I'm sure that my dueling partner Tim Beyers is going to give Whole Foods a hard time because of its reputation as having a "pricey" stock over recent years. However, as is the case with many unconventional companies that carve out new niches for themselves, a premium price tag simply reflects the expectations for amazing growth.
Embrace the supernatural
Whole Foods Market, which David Gardner recommended for Motley Fool Stock Advisor last year, has been around for more than 20 years now. Founder and chief visionary John Mackey continues to take an active role in the company's progress, much to the company's benefit.
If there's any one reason why the term "supernatural market" has evolved, it seems to me Whole Foods has to get the lion's share, if not all, of the credit. Whole Foods has come a long way since its birth as a single health food store in Austin, Texas. In the two decades since, Whole Foods has expanded at a rapid clip, continually building and improving its brand and charming customers all the while. It still has plenty of room to grow, and that's a major reason why I think this company can justify its premium price over the long term. It has only 181 stores in the U.S. so far, a number that gives investors a rather exciting idea of how much further it could go.
Compare that with its competitors in the grocery industry, and you get the idea. Safeway
Given that Whole Foods isn't your typical grocer, having carved its own "supernatural" supermarket niche long ago, it boggles the mind to think of how many attractive demographic locations exist for this retailer. The ample room for expansion into some of the hottest new retail areas is one of the major reasons why the future looks bright for this grocer.
Everything's gone green
Despite its reputation as having a stock with a steep price tag, Whole Foods has watched its shares take a bit of a beating lately. (Last quarter, Whole Foods missed analysts' expectations by a penny, although it still reported very impressive double-digit increases in earnings and sales. Here's a related article, which reminds us of Whole Foods' exceptional outlook.) The market may have soured on Whole Foods just a bit, but that concern may very well seem silly one day, as Whole Foods keeps growing.
One of Whole Foods' impressive competitive advantages is its savvy management. Much of Whole Foods' success can be attributed to the expertise of Mackey, who has flouted conventional wisdom time and time again to create a successful, fast-growing company that many people over the years did not believe could make it over the long haul. For anyone who thought natural and organic foods were a fad and that the conventional grocers would eat Whole Foods for lunch -- well, they've had to eat their words.
Double-digit earnings and sales growth are par for the course at Whole Foods Market. The company has delivered a compound annual growth rate of 20.7% in sales and earnings from continuing operations of 36% over the past five years. Its five-year average growth in same-store sales is 11.1%. Whole Foods recently increased the range of sales growth it expects in 2006 to 18% to 21%, and the company also said it now expects sales of $12 billion in 2010, up from the previous $10 billion forecast.
Of course, while history may be a good indicator of a company's strengths, the future's what investors are looking for. It seems to me that Whole Foods is just hitting its stride, given the strong trends toward healthier eating and a better shopping experience, as well as the fact that this company has plenty of room to grow. Whole Foods' "green" reputation not only implies environmentally friendly policies and a general feel-good attitude -- it also suggests the greenery of hefty sales and profits to come.
Whole Foods Market is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. To find out what other companies David and Tom Gardner have recommended for the service, take a 30-day free trial.Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.