What is in this article?:
- Fresh Market Boosts Outlook
- 'Consistent Track Record'
"The Fresh Market format should continue to produce strong results.”
— Chuck Cerankosky, managing director, Northcoast Research
GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Fresh Market here raised its guidance for the year following the release last week of second-quarter results, which showed increased earnings and comparable sales increases of 8%.
Craig Carlock, president and chief executive officer, said The Fresh Market is doing well “because we aren’t in quite a price-sensitive position. We sell to folks who are there not for the price but for the quality, the service, the cleanliness and the ease of getting in and out. That’s what we deliver, and that’s why they’re there.”
However, Kate Wendt, an analyst with Wells Fargo Securities, San Francisco, said ongoing store expansion could force The Fresh Market to lower prices to be more competitive with Whole Foods and conventional retailers.
“The Fresh Market should benefit from the consumer trend towards healthy living and significant share-shift taking place in the grocery industry, in addition to sizable store-growth opportunities, but this is tempered by concerns that the company may start to be impacted by lower prices at key competitors as well as new-store openings in more competitive markets,” she said.
“Though this isn’t likely to show up next quarter, it bears watching,” she pointed out.
For the 13-week quarter, which ended July 29, net income increased 26.9% to $13.3 million, sales rose 20.6% to $313 million and comparable-store sales rose 8%, including a 5.3% increase in transactions and a 2.7% rise in average transaction size.
For the first half, net income was up 35.9% to $32.6 million, while sales increased 21.7% to $637.8 million and comps jumped 8.1%, with a 5.5% increase in transactions and a 2.6% increase in average transaction size.
Gross margin, driven by supply chain improvements and lower shrink, expanded by 140 basis points during the quarter to 34.1% of sales; for the half, gross margin rose 110 basis points to 34.4%.
The company said it was raising its guidance for the year for earnings to end up between $1.33 and $1.38 per share, compared with earlier guidance of $1.28 to $1.34, with comp sales climbing between 5.5% and 6.5%, compared with previous forecasts of between 4.5% and 6.5%.
Analysts were generally upbeat in assessing the results.
Edward Aaron, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, New York, said he believes the comp guidance implies “a noticeable deceleration for the second half of 3% to 5%, reflecting tough comparisons and some uncertainty about the macro backdrop.”
However, he said the projected numbers are “on the conservative side, suggesting [they] should continue to drift higher.”