Whole Foods ups U.S. growth outlook

Faced with unwavering demand for its brand of food retailing and an abundance of potential locations, Whole Foods executives on Tuesday increased their forecast for U.S. store growth to 1,200 locations from 1,000.

Typically, the disclosure of such material information would take place during a quarterly conference call or investor conference and be accompanied by a press release or filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Whole Foods approach was quite different and occurred during a conversation between co-CEO’s Walter Robb and John Mackey and CNBC host Jim Cramer who was broadcasting live from the produce department of the retailer’s new 56,000-sq.-ft. store which opened Tuesday in Brooklyn, NY.

During an interview that lasted less than two minutes, Cramer asked the pair about the new store – which took 10 years to develop and 18 months to construct – before shifting gears to ask about growth prospects. Whole Foods ended its fiscal year on September 29 with 362 stores, of which 347 are located in the U.S., and has long maintained the U.S. market is capable of supporting 1,000 locations.

“Are there that many opportunities left in the country?” Cramer asked the pair.

“There are probably more than 1,000. The market continues to grow. We are thinking internally that we could do maybe 1,200 stores in the United States at this point just because the world is continuing to change,” said co-CEO Mackey.

“That is an exclusive soundbite he just gave you,” said co-CEO Robb. “There is a road map out there that looks like all these markets are available to us and we are going to go for it.”

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