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Sprouting confidence

Jim Nielsen had a lot to be proud of as he led an exclusive tour of Sprouts Farmers Market’s newest prototype in Huntington Beach, Calif. Thursday, shortly before partaking in SN’s panel discussion at Natural Products Expo West in nearby Anaheim.

There’s Sprouts’ aggressive price programs in produce -- opportunistic buying practices and a culture devoted to selling had three-pound bags of California mandarin oranges flying off the shelves and sidewalk store displays at $1.98 each -- but Nielsen, the chain’s COO, also noted progress in areas like product innovation (co-branded private label items and exclusive offerings) and service (a store-based “yes” program he says helps build consumer confidence in the brand and its employees). It all added up to eye-popping numbers for the fiscal fourth quarter announced last week -- a 27% sales increase and dizzying 13.8% comps.

Read more: SN's coverage of Natural Products Expo West

The performance marked Sprouts' 27th consecutive quarter of same-store sales growth, Nielsen noted at the discussion panel, giving the chain confidence as it zooms across the country to open its first locations in Atlanta later this year. The chain is doing so behind a handsome decor and new store prototype that added thousands of new items to store shelves to the benefit of food trends like raw, while maintaining the open feel and intimacy typical of the concept.

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