Whole Foods Market next year will use its might to absorb competitors in the rapidly growing health and wellness field, according to stock analyst Charles Grom of Sterne Agee.
“We think conditions are ideal for [Whole Foods] to go on an acquisition spree in 2015,” Grom wrote while speculating on 10 predictions for the retail space in the coming year. Grom cited the growing number of competitors crowding the natural/organic space; the falling valuation of Whole Foods stock in recent years; and a “debt-free, robust balance sheet,” that could allow Austin, Texas-based chain to buy a rival if it wanted one.
Grom speculated that potential candidates include privately held Earth Fare, Fletcher, N.C., as well as Fairway Markets, a New York-based specialty player. None of the three companies mentioned had immediate comment on the report.
Intensifying competition in the natural space was also behind Grom’s prediction that The Fresh Market, Greensboro, N.C., tempers in its growth plans next year so as to further concentrate growth on the East Coast. “[W]e remain guarded on [The Fresh Market’s] ability to reach its stated 500-store long-term target,” Grom wrote. “With this in mind, we think TFM will rein in door growth expectations, further limiting the potential footprint to the I-95 [East Coast] corridor."
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