Phil Town
Phil Town

Continuing from yesterday... Interpreting WFMI's quarterly conference call.

During the fourth quarter we opened five new stores: a 51,000 square foot store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; a 74,000 square foot store in Columbus, Ohio; a 59,000 square foot store in Denver, Colorado; a 38,000 square foot store in Boston, Massachusetts; and a 61,000 square foot store in Omaha, Nebraska. Baton Rouge, Omaha and Columbus are new markets for us. We ended the year with 175 stores and 5.8 million square feet in operation.

They got 175 stores.  Good thing to know, right?   Because how many can they have and how fast are they opening them up?

So far in the first quarter, we have opened four new stores including a 52,000 square foot store in Atlanta; a 36,000 square foot store in Jericho, New York; a 43,000 square foot store in West Hartford, Connecticut, and a 41,000 square foot store in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. We plan to open one additional 55,000 square foot store in Denver, Colorado in the current quarter.

Looks like they opened 4 last quarter.

We are also pleased to announce that our Metairie store near New Orleans, which was closed following Hurricane Katrina, has recently reopened for business on a limited basis. While the store will require a complete re-building, we have opened an 11,000 square-foot "store within a store" in order to provide food to the community while simultaneously rebuilding the perimeter of the store, which we hope complete over the next three to six months. Also, we are now offering pick-up service at our urban New Orleans store and hope to re-open that store within the next three to six months as well.

Our new store pipeline continues to increase with today's announcement of nine new store leases totaling 549,000 square feet. The stores range in size from 50,000 to 80,000 square feet with an average size of 61,000 square feet and are as follows: a 60,000 square foot store in Chandler, Arizona; a 50,000 square foot store Orlando, Florida; a 52,000 square foot store in Eugene, Oregon; a 56,000 square foot store in Tarzana, California (a Los Angeles suburb); a 65,000 square foot store in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania (a Philadelphia suburb); an 80,000 square foot store in Dallas, Texas; a 61,000 square foot store in Reading, MA (a Boston suburb); a 50,000 square foot store in Connecticut and a 75,000-square-foot store in London.

We are excited to extend the Whole Foods Market mission and brand beyond the United States and Canadian borders and into Europe. The U.K. was an obvious first choice due to the advanced acceptance of organic foods and the lack of a language barrier. We believe this spacious urban location positions us to duplicate the tremendous success Whole Foods Market has experienced in metropolitan cities in the United States, most notably New York City, by providing Londoners with a fresh and innovative choice in shopping for the most delicious and high quality foods. This is our first step in expanding the Whole Foods Market brand in the U.K. and ultimately into other parts of Europe, where we believe the long-term growth potential is tremendous.

We have been working hard to capitalize on the tremendous growth opportunities that lie ahead for us and have announced seven or more newly signed leases in each of the last nine quarters. We now have 65 stores and 3.6 million square feet under development, representing 60 percent of our existing square footage. For fiscal year 2006, we expect capital expenditures of between $340 million and $360 million, of which approximately 60% is related to new stores.

And they have signed 9 new store leases per quarter for the last two years.  That's 36 new stores a year rolling out.   So again, how many can they have?  Well let's see how many stores their competitors have, and that will give us an idea of whether WFMI is just getting rolling -- or whether they are getting to the end of the game... because retail stores depend on growth by opening new stores.   When you can't open any more, your growth slows way down.

Albertsons is pretty big.  I went on their website and they say they have 2400 stores.  Let's see.  WFMI has 175.  Albertsons has 2400.  Yeah.  Room to grow.   A lot.  For years.