All that said, the company's being aggressive as ever, maybe even more aggressive in same-store sales openings, and it continually said in the call it sees the category and the opportunity expanding in tandem with the store-opening acceleration.
So what do we do? What do you pay for the best of breed in the category when the category is becoming more cut-throat and it is answering the challenge with lower prices?
I think you are bound by the price-to-earnings multiples of the other high-quality retailers. Starbucks (SBUX), for example, with 7% comp growth, trades at 28x earnings. Costco, with similar comp growth, trades at 23x earnings. No one else that I follow even comes near these guys except for Chipotle (CMG), which is growing at a same-store pace of 9%, so it can't even be factored into the equation.
If you think, like I do, that the weather played havoc and if it weren't so nasty out then Whole Foods could have hit 6%, then you are talking about a multiple somewhere between 28x and 23x next-year's earnings. With the new revisions, I am having trouble getting to $2 for next year. Let's say it can do $1.90. That puts it right around $50.In other words, the darned thing is pretty perfectly priced unless we see some sort of acceleration. The good news? I think that if we got better weather that number's attainable and we could see a re-acceleration. The bad news is the competition is not diminishing. Ultimately, had the analysts not raised expectations with their recent pushes, this stock would barely be hit. But they did raise those expectations and now we have the damage that simply must occur. So, I think the stock marks time here until we know more. It remains a terrific growth company, just not as terrific as it was. So, shareholders have to pay the price, the reduced price, for the reduced earnings where it's neither here nor there short term, but deserves a better price long term simply because I believe that the quarter represents a trough decline and there won't be another cut expected. Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust, has no positions in the stocks mentioned. Editor's Note: This article was originally published at 8:25 a.m. EST on Real Money on Feb. 13.
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