Natural Grocers Files for IPO

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Natural Grocers here, parent of the 54-unit Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage retail chain, has filed for an initial public offering that it said could raise up to $115 million.

Natural Grocers was founded in 1955 by Margaret and Philip Isely and has been managed since 1998 by the second generation of the family. The chain added 10 new stores — which focus on natural groceries and dietary supplements — last year, and said it plans to continue expanding rapidly.

“We intend to continue expanding our store base through new store openings in existing markets, as well as penetrating new markets, by leveraging our core competencies of site selection and efficient store openings,” the company said in a registration filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday.

The company said it believes the U.S. market can support 1,100 stores. It currently operates in Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. Stories carry about 18,000 SKUs of product, including 7,000 SKUs of dietary supplements.

In the SEC filing, the company said it tallied $4.6 million in net income on sales of $264.5 million in fiscal 2011, which ended last Sept. 30. In the six months through March 31, 2012, Natural Grocers posted net income of $4 million — up 86% over year-ago levels — on sales growth of 26%, to $159.75 million. Comparable-store sales for the six-month period were up 10.2%, the company said. It also said it has had positive comps for more than 40 consecutive quarters.

The date and pricing of the IPO have not yet been disclosed. The proceeds would go to pay down debt, the company said. SunTrust Robinson Humphrey and Piper Jaffray are listed as lead underwriters.