Whole Foods Market reported Wednesday afternoon that its fourth-quarter profit rose 8.5 percent to $128 million from a year ago, beating analysts' estimates of flat earnings. Revenue also rose 8.5 percent to $3.26 billion, slightly less than estimated.
The largest organic and minimally-processed food purveyor in the U.S. has been facing increasing competition as traditional grocers add organics and natural food selections and niche stores like Trader Joe's and Sprout's Farmers Market sell comparable products at prices 10 to 30 percent lower than Whole Foods.
Whole Foods reported earnings for the three-month period ending Sept. 28 of $128 million, or 35 cents a share, up from $121 million, or 32 cents a share from the year-earlier period. Revenue rose to $3.26 billion from $2.98 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a 9.4 increase in revenue over the same period last year.
Comparable store sales rose 3.1 percent over the quarter. The grocer said it expects store sales growth at low to middle single digits though 2015.
Whole Foods stock, though priced at the top of the grocery industry, has lost 30 percent this year alone. The majority of equity analysts rate the stock as a "neutral" or "hold" rather than "buy," citing slowing store sales growth amid increasing competition.