Sprouts Farmers Market Inc (SFM), Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Inc (NGVC): It’s Full Speed Ahead for The Fresh Market Inc (TFM)

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After reporting its latest earnings, The Fresh Market Inc (NASDAQ:TFM) showed it’s working to rapidly grow its network of stores.

The Fresh Market Inc (NASDAQ:TFM) is spending the majority of its cash on opening or remodeling its stores. So far in fiscal 2013, operating cash flow was $69.6 million with $51.7 million spent on capital expenditures that included real estate activities. Compared to its larger rivals, the company has attractive metrics, and it will be interesting to see how these numbers hold up as the company grows.

Market cap.

 $2.4 B

$5.5 B

$19.5 B

Operating Margin, TTM












Source: Morningstar.com

The Fresh Market Inc (NASDAQ:TFM)

Accelerating store construction for the remainder of 2013

During the second quarter, The Fresh Market Inc (NASDAQ:TFM) opened five new stores, bringing its total operations to 136 stores in 26 states. The average capital cost per store is $5 million. Capital costs were higher than expected, in part due to two leased locations that required new construction. The company signed 30 new leases during the quarter for future store locations.

For the remainder of fiscal 2013, it plans to accelerate the construction of certain stores with planned 2014 openings. For instance, 10 to 11 new stores are expected to be ready in the third quarter, bringing the total of new stores for 2013 to 21 to 22. The Fresh Market Inc (NASDAQ:TFM) forecasts an increase in same-store sales of 3% to 4.5% and diluted EPS of $1.50 to $1.55. Due to the company’s accelerated growth plans and increased capital spending, flat operating margin growth is expected.

Sprouts beating out competitors

Sprouts Farmers Market Inc (NASDAQ:SFM) directly competes with The Fresh Market Inc (NASDAQ:TFM) and holds the number-two spot in the natural and organic food space, after Whole Foods Market. It has been able to compete effectively against its rivals by offering cheaper food prices at its 160 stores. According to Instore Trends, the company’s similar quality produce is priced 25% to 30% lower than Whole Foods; this area has been key in driving its growth.

Sprouts Farmers Market Inc (NASDAQ:SFM) went public on August 1 with shares priced at $18. Since then, shares have traded as high as $41.85. In the company’s second quarter ended June 30, net sales were $622.4 million, up 45% from last year. Diluted EPS rose 100% from 2012 to $0.10. Pro forma same-store sales grew 10.8%. Sprouts Farmers Market Inc (NASDAQ:SFM)’ full-year 2013 estimates include net income of $44 million to $47 million and adjusted diluted EPS of $0.41 to $0.43. Pro forma same-store sales are estimated at 8.5% to 9%.

Natural Grocers wants to grow like Whole Foods

Another growing specialty food retailer is Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Inc (NYSE:NGVC). Similar to The Fresh Market, Natural Grocers operates a smaller store format. According to the company’s website, customers are offered a variety of organic and all-natural products and are also provided with science-based nutrition information to guide their health and nutrition choices. Natural Grocers has a market cap of $839.5 million and operates 70 stores in 13 states.

Rapid expansion is also a goal for the specialty retailer, with two signed leases for store openings in 2013 and 11 more in 2014. Based on independent research, the company predicts the U.S. market can support a minimum of 1,100 stores, very similar to Whole Foods Market’s target of 1,000 stores.

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Inc (NYSE:NGVC)’ comparable-store sales fell sharply during the recession but bounced back to pre-recession levels in 2012. The company is focused on keeping costs under control by monitoring staffing expenses and investing in a bulk-food repackaging facility and distribution center that is expected to support growth for the next five-plus years. The company also expects to capitalize on economies of scale as its number of stores grows, giving it greater purchasing leverage.

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