Q1 2011 Earnings Call Transcript

Transcript Call Date 02/09/2011

Operator: Good day, everyone, and welcome to the Whole Foods First Quarter Earnings Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, you'll have the opportunity to ask questions during the question-and-answer session.

It is now my pleasure to hand the call over to Cindy McCann, Vice President of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Cindy McCann - Global VP, Investor Relations: Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us for the Whole Foods Market First Quarter Earnings Conference Call. On the call today are John Mackey and Walter Robb, Co-Chief Executive Officers; A.C. Gallo, President and Chief Operating Officer; Glenda Flanagan, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and Jim Sud, Executive Vice President of Growth and Development.

I'd like to remind you that the discussion we are having today will include forward-looking statements within the context of federal securities laws. These statements involve risks and uncertainties that may cause actual events, results, and/or performance to differ materially from those indicated by such statements.

We undertake no obligation to update forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include those outlined in today's call, as well as any other risks identified from time to time in the Company's public statements and reports filed with the SEC. Please note our press release and scripted remarks are available on our website.

I will now turn the call over to Walter Robb.

Walter Robb - Co-CEO: Thank you, Cindy. Good afternoon, everyone. We assume you have read our press release and we'll use this time to focus on highlights from the quarter. We are very proud of our results, which once again showed strong top and bottom-line increases.

On a 14% increase in sales, we produced a 15% increase in gross profit, 26% increase in EBITDA to $234 million, a 59% increase in earnings per share to $0.51, cash flow from operations to $253 million and free cash flow of $162 million.

Our solid execution is generating consistent free cash flow, which we are using to pay off debt, invest in new and existing stores, and return cash to shareholders. During the quarter, we repaid $100 million of our term loan and invested $91 million in capital expenditures. Subsequent to the end of the quarter, we repaid another $200 million and paid $17 million to our shareholders after reinstating our dividend last December.

The biggest news of the quarter is, despite increasingly tougher comparisons, we maintained our sales momentum and are reporting our fifth consecutive quarter of accelerating identical store sales growth on both a one and two-year basis. Identical store sales increased 9.1%, our highest result in four years and an acceleration of 518 basis points to 11.6% on a two-year stacked basis.

Average weekly sales per store for all stores increased 9% to $621,000, translating to sales per square foot of approximately $856. We believe our value efforts and differentiation are continuing to gain traction as evidenced by our strong 7% increase in transaction count in identical stores. A 2% increase in basket size was driven primarily by customers putting more items in their baskets, while there was a lot of discussion about inflationary pressures on product costs, our average price per item showed only a slight increase year-over-year. This is a reversal from the slight decreases we had been seeing.

Read our Earnings Call Transcript disclaimer.
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