10-K 1 a08-29339_110k.htm ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 AND 15(D)

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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

WASHINGTON, D.C.  20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(D) OF

THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDED SEPTEMBER 28, 2008

 

COMMISSION FILE NUMBER:  0-19797

 

WHOLE FOODS MARKET, INC.

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

Texas
 
74-1989366

(State of incorporation)

 

(IRS Employer Identification No.)

 

550 Bowie St.

Austin, Texas 78703

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code:

512-477-4455

 

Securities registered pursuant to section 12(b) of the Act:

Common Stock, no par value

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.

Yes x  No o

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.

Yes o  No x

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x  No o

 

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. o

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).

 

 

Large accelerated filer x

 

Accelerated filer o

 

Non-accelerated filer o (Do not check if a smaller reporting company)

 

Smaller reporting company o

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes o  No x

 

The aggregate market value of all common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant as of April 13, 2008 was $4,384,722,829.  The number of shares of the registrant’s common stock, no par value, outstanding as of November 21, 2008 was 140,318,304.

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

 

The information required by Part III of this report, to the extent not set forth herein, is incorporated by reference from the Registrant’s definitive Proxy Statement for the Annual Meeting of the Stockholders to be held March 16, 2009.

 

 

 



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Whole Foods Market, Inc.

Annual Report on Form 10-K

For the Fiscal Year Ended September 28, 2008

 

Table of Contents

 

 

 

Page

 

 

Number

 

 

 

PART I

 

 

 

 

Item 1.

Business

3

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

17

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

22

Item 2.

Properties

23

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

23

Item 4.

Submission of Matters to a Vote of Security Holders

24

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

 

 

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

25

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

27

Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

28

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

41

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

43

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

73

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

73

Item 9B.

Other Information

73

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

 

 

Item 10.

Directors and Executive Officers of the Registrant

74

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

74

Item 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management

74

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions

74

Item 14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

74

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

 

 

Item 15.

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

75

 

 

 

SIGNATURES

77

 

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This Report on Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 21E of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 concerning our current expectations, assumptions, estimates and projections about the future. These forward-looking statements are based on currently available operating, financial and competitive information and are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those indicated in the forward-looking statements. See “Item 1A. Risk Factors” for a discussion of risks and uncertainties that may affect our business.

 

PART I

 

Item 1.    Business.

 

General

 

Whole Foods Market is the world’s leading supermarket emphasizing natural and organic foods and America’s first national “Certified Organic” grocer. Our Company mission is to promote the vitality and well-being of all individuals by supplying the highest quality, most wholesome foods available. Since the purity of our food and the health of our bodies are directly related to the purity and health of our environment, our core mission is devoted to the promotion of organically grown foods, food safety concerns, and the sustainability of our entire ecosystem. Through our growth, we have had a significant and positive impact on the natural and organic foods movement throughout the United States, helping lead the industry to nationwide acceptance over the last 28 years.

 

Whole Foods Market, Inc. is a Texas corporation incorporated in 1980. The Company is based in Austin, Texas and conducts business through various wholly owned subsidiaries. Unless otherwise specified, references to Whole Foods Market or the Company in this Report include its consolidated subsidiaries. We have one operating segment, supermarkets emphasizing natural and organic foods.

 

We opened our first store in Austin, Texas in 1980 and completed our initial public offering in January 1992. As of September 28, 2008, we operated 275 stores: 264 stores in 38 U.S. states and the District of Columbia; six stores in Canada; and five stores in the United Kingdom. This includes 55 stores (net of closed and divested locations) acquired from Wild Oats Markets, Inc. (“Wild Oats”) on August 28, 2007: 52 stores in 20 U.S. states and three stores in Canada.

 

Our sales have grown rapidly through new store openings, acquisitions and comparable store sales growth, from approximately $92 million in fiscal year 1991, excluding the effect of pooling-of-interests transactions completed since 1991, to approximately $8.0 billion in fiscal year 2008, a compounded annual growth rate of approximately 30%. We are a Fortune 500 company, ranking number 369 based on our fiscal year 2007 sales of approximately $6.6 billion. Our 275 stores average approximately 36,000 square feet in size, approximately $30 million in annual sales, and are approximately 8.5 years old on average. Our stores are supported by 11 regional offices and our Austin headquarters, regional distribution centers, bakehouse facilities, commissary kitchens, seafood-processing facilities, produce procurement centers, a confectionary, and a specialty coffee, tea procurement and brewing operation.

 

We aspire to become an international brand synonymous with not just natural and organic foods, but also with being the best food retailer in every community in which we are located. We believe our heavy emphasis on perishable products, along with our unparalleled customer service, is helping us reach that goal, differentiating our stores from other supermarkets and enabling us to attract a broad base of loyal customers. Perishable product sales accounted for approximately 67% of our total sales in fiscal year 2008. The following is a summary of annual percentage revenues by product category:

 

 

 

2008

 

2007

 

2006

 

Grocery

 

33.2

%

32.0

%

31.5

%

Prepared foods

 

19.3

%

19.8

%

19.6

%

Other perishables

 

47.5

%

48.3

%

48.8

%

Total sales

 

100.0

%

100.0

%

100.0

%

Figures may not sum due to rounding.

 

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The Natural and Organic Products Industry

 

According to a leading trade publication for the industry, sales of natural products across all retail and direct-to-consumer channels grew to approximately $62 billion in 2007, a 10% increase over the prior year. We believe the growth in sales of natural and organic foods is being driven by numerous factors, including:

 

·

heightened awareness of the role that food and nutrition play in long-term health, which has led to healthier eating patterns;

 

 

·

a better-educated and wealthier populace whose median age is increasing each year;

 

 

·

increasing consumer concern over the purity and safety of food due to the presence of pesticide residues, growth hormones, artificial ingredients and other chemicals, and genetically engineered ingredients; and

 

 

·

environmental concerns due to the degradation of water and soil quality.

 

Natural foods can be defined as foods that are minimally processed, largely or completely free of artificial ingredients, preservatives and other non-naturally occurring chemicals and as near to their whole, natural state as possible. Organic foods are grown through methods intended to support and enhance the earth’s natural balance. Generally, organic food products are produced using:

 

·

agricultural management practices intended to promote and enhance ecosystem health;

 

 

·

no genetically engineered seeds or crops, sewage sludge, long-lasting pesticides, herbicides or fungicides;

 

 

·

livestock management practices intended to promote healthy, humanely treated animals by providing organically grown feed, fresh air and outdoor access while using no antibiotics or growth hormones; and

 

 

·

food processing practices intended to protect the integrity of the organic product and disallow irradiation, genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”) or synthetic preservatives.

 

Organic Rule

 

In October 2002, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (“USDA”) Organic Rule was implemented into Federal law. The Organic Rule was created to address the rapid, consistent growth of the organics industry over the past 20-plus years and the need for a set of national organic standards to serve as clear guidelines as to what is considered organic for the industry and its customers. Under the Organic Rule, all products labeled as “organic” in any form must be certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agency. Furthermore, all retailers, including Whole Foods Market, that handle, store, and sell organic products must implement measures to protect their organic integrity by:

 

·

preventing the commingling of organic and conventional products;

 

 

·

protecting organic products from contact with prohibited substances (such as sanitation and pest control products);

 

 

·

labeling organic products properly and clearly; and

 

 

·

keeping proper records with regard to organic handling procedures and vendor relationships.

 

Whole Foods Market played an active leadership role in the development of the national organic standards. Margaret Wittenberg, our Global Vice President of Quality Standards and Public Affairs, served on the National Organic Standards Board (“NOSB”) from 1995 to 2000. The NOSB members were appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to act as industry advisors to the USDA’s National Organic Program, developing the standards and protocols that form the backbone of the USDA’s Organic Rule. As the sole retail representative on the NOSB, Ms. Wittenberg contributed a broad, realistic perspective on how the standards could work most effectively at the retail level.

 

In fiscal year 2008, Ms. Wittenberg was selected to serve as one of four new members on the Board of Directors for The Organic Center, a nonprofit organization that advances peer-reviewed scientific research and information behind the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming and communicates those benefits to the public.

 

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Whole Foods Market has been devoted to protecting organic integrity for years, and we are pleased to have the USDA’s Organic Rule as a guiding standard. In May 2003, Whole Foods Market became America’s first national “Certified Organic” grocer through certification by a federally recognized independent third-party certification organization. This voluntary certification tells our customers that we have gone the extra mile by not only following the USDA’s Organic Rule, but following a strict set of operating procedures designed to ensure that the products we sell and label as organic are indeed organic – procedures that are not specifically required by the Organic Rule.

 

This certification verifies our handling of organic goods according to stringent national guidelines, from receipt through re-packing to final sale to customers. To receive certification, retailers must agree to adhere to a strict set of standards set forth by the USDA, submit documentation, and open their facilities to on-site inspections – all designed to assure Americans that the chain of organic integrity is preserved. The certification is one more example of our commitment to the promotion of organic agriculture and the integrity of the certified organic label.

 

Business Strategy

 

Whole Foods Market is the world’s leading supermarket emphasizing natural and organic foods. We believe that much of our success to date is because we remain a uniquely mission-driven Company. We are highly selective about what we sell. We believe in providing an empowering work environment for our team members, and we are committed to sustainable agriculture. Our motto, “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet,” emphasizes that our vision reaches far beyond just food retailing.

 

Whole Foods

 

We obtain our products locally and from all over the world, often from small, uniquely dedicated food artisans. We strive to offer the highest quality, least processed, most flavorful and naturally preserved foods. We believe that food in its purest state, unadulterated by artificial additives, sweeteners, colorings and preservatives, is the best tasting and most nutritious food available.

 

Whole People

 

We recruit the best people we can to become part of our team. We empower them to make many operational decisions, creating a respectful workplace where team members are treated fairly and are highly motivated to succeed. We look for team members who are passionate about food, but also well-rounded human beings who can play a critical role in helping to build our Company into a profitable and beneficial part of every community in which we operate.

 

Whole Planet

 

We believe companies, like individuals, must assume their share of responsibility for our planet. We actively support organic farming on a global basis because we believe it is the best method for promoting sustainable agriculture and protecting the environment and farm workers. On a local basis, we are actively involved in our communities by supporting food banks, sponsoring neighborhood events, and contributing at least 5% of our after-tax profits in the form of cash or products to not-for-profit organizations.

 

Whole Foods Market was recognized in March 2008 in FORTUNE magazine’s “America’s Most Admired Companies” list for the second year in a row. The “Most Admired” list is the “definitive report card on corporate reputations”; a list in which leaders of the Fortune 1000 and top foreign companies operating in the U.S. rate companies in their own industry on eight criteria. Among the seven most admired companies in the Food and Drug Stores category, Whole Foods Market was ranked #4 by its peers, with #1 rankings in the areas of Innovation, Social Responsibility, and Quality of Products.

 

Core Values

 

Our core values reflect what is truly important to us as an organization. They are the underpinning of our corporate culture and the soul of our Company. They transcend our size and growth, so regardless of how large we become, by maintaining our core values we are able to preserve what has always been special about our Company. In 2008, we added a sixth Core Value recognizing the importance of our relationships with suppliers. Our supplier partners are our allies in serving the interests of all of our stakeholders in bringing to market the highest quality products available. We are committed to working with honesty, integrity and transparency in partnership with our suppliers to provide value, education and innovation to all of our stakeholders.

 

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Our core values are:

 

·                  selling the highest quality natural and organic products available;

 

·                  satisfying and delighting our customers;

 

·                  supporting team member happiness and excellence;

 

·                  creating wealth through profits and growth;

 

·                  caring about our communities and our environment; and

 

·                  creating ongoing win-win partnerships with our suppliers.

 

These core values speak to our belief in a balanced way of doing business. They very succinctly express the purpose of our business, which is not only to make profits, but to create value for all of our major stakeholders – our customers, team members, suppliers, investors, and the community and environment. All are linked interdependently.

 

Foundations

 

In 2005, we created two independent, non-profit organizations, the Animal Compassion FoundationTM and Whole Planet FoundationTM, designed to reach our larger community stakeholders. The two private foundations were initially funded with seed money totaling over $1 million raised from two global “Five Percent Days,” in which five percent of the amount of all customer purchases at our stores was donated to the foundations. Both foundations have been aligned with the mission we set forth more than 28 years ago with respect to community involvement and responsibility. As we have grown and are doing more business around the world, we believe it has become increasingly important for us to extend our vision of “community” from our backyards to the global markets in which we are trading.

 

Although the Animal Compassion Foundation had much success leading and funding on-farm research and producer workshops to learn and share best practices that support animal needs and behaviors, in the fall of 2007, the Animal Compassion Foundation’s Board of Directors voted to transition it from a private foundation into a new public foundation in order to make an even greater impact worldwide on the way animals raised for meat are cared for from birth to slaughter. The new organization, called the Global Animal Partnership, was launched in spring 2008, switching its primary focus away from the former Animal Compassion Foundation’s research and education activities to concentrating its efforts on the further development and launch of the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system.

 

The Whole Planet Foundation’s mission is to create economic partnerships with the poor in the developing-world communities that supply our stores with product. Through innovative assistance for entrepreneurship – including direct micro-credit loans and tangible support for other community partnership projects – the Whole Planet Foundation seeks to expand the energy and creativity of every person with whom it works in order to create wealth and prosperity in emerging economies. Micro-credit is a system pioneered by Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. The philosophy behind micro-credit is to provide the poor access to credit without requiring contracts or collateral, enabling them to rise out of poverty through their own efforts. The Whole Planet Foundation believes micro-credit is one of the best methods to help individuals lift themselves out of poverty through their own ingenuity. The Whole Planet Foundation has partnered with various micro-finance institutions to support micro-lending programs in communities where the Company sources products.

 

As of September 28, 2008, the Whole Planet Foundation had committed over $7.9 million in grants to 11 micro-lending projects. These projects are in Costa Rica, where Whole Foods Market sources bananas and pineapples; Guatemala, Nicaragua, Indonesia, East Timor, Ethiopia and Kenya, where Whole Foods Market has relationships with coffee farmers; Honduras, where the Company sources bananas and buys coffee; and India, where the Company buys tea. In addition, the Foundation’s partnerships in Nepal will distribute $3.5 million in loans to 10,000 poor farmers over the next three years, and its partnership with Grameen America in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City is working to help alleviate poverty through entrepreneurship by providing loans, savings programs, credit establishment, and other services to the working poor, with a focus on immigrant women in the U.S.

 

Together with customers, vendors and team members, Whole Foods Market and the Whole Planet Foundation have funded micro-lending projects for over 22,000 micro-entrepreneurs and their families to date. It is estimated that each woman with whom the foundation works in the developing world supports a family of five, which means our support is indirectly

 

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contributing to the prosperity of 110,000 individuals. Micro-entrepreneurs supported by the Whole Planet Foundation’s implementing partners are utilizing the loans for home-based businesses such as poultry and pig farming, agriculture, furniture making, tailoring, and selling handicrafts, homemade and bakery-made foods, clothing and footwear. The Whole Planet Foundation hopes to expand its projects in 2009 to include micro-lending in Peru, Mexico, Argentina, Thailand and China, where Whole Foods Market sources coffee and tea through its Allegro Coffee Company, as well as rice, grain, fruits and vegetables.

 

Today, more than one billion people are living on less than $1 a day. Whole Foods Market covers all operating costs and the overhead budget for the Whole Planet Foundation, and directs $1 million annually, funded in part by the sale of products under the Company’s Whole Trade Guarantee program, to its micro-lending projects. Join us in empowering entrepreneurs in the global community by donating online at www.wholeplanetfoundation.org. We have included the foundation’s website address only as an inactive textual reference. The information contained on the website is not incorporated by reference into this Report on Form 10-K.

 

Green Action

 

Supporting wise environmental practices is part of our core values and strengthens our commitment to being a leader in environmental stewardship. This means making decisions that positively impact the health of our planet, its people and its resources. Our Green Mission Task Force, comprised of team members and leadership across the Company, is empowered to act on initiatives that support our Green Mission. In 2008, we held our first ever Green Mission Congress, bringing together representatives from each of our regions to share best practices and set Company-wide intentions for energy efficiency, green building, and waste stream reductions.

 

Renewable Energy. Whole Foods Market uses a comprehensive alternative energy approach to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. Over the years, we have purchased more than 1.2 million megawatt hours of wind-based renewable energy. Our commitment to renewable energy purchasing has earned us Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) Green Power awards for the last four years. Our Berkeley, CA store was the nation’s first major food retailer to introduce solar energy as its primary lighting source in 2002. We now have close to a dozen locations either hosting or using solar power to supplement traditional power, including one of the largest solar arrays in the state of Connecticut at our distribution center. We also purchased an on-site hydrogen fuel cell at our new Glastonbury, CT store, enabling the store to generate 50 percent of the electricity and heat and nearly 100 percent of its hot water needs on-site using fuel cell technology.

 

Energy Reduction and Efficiency. Whole Foods Market is investing in energy monitoring equipment to identify system reduction opportunities, and we are investing in retrofits of existing stores with more energy efficient lighting, equipment, and mechanical components. The Company is also upgrading its equipment and systems to improve energy efficiency in new stores, efforts that may reduce energy consumption by 10 percent to 50 percent in certain stores. In addition, the recent implementation of a Company-wide energy and refrigerant tracking program is enabling us to develop a greenhouse gas emissions inventory; preliminary emissions reduction targets have been set but not yet published.

 

Green Construction. We build our new stores with the environment in mind, using green building innovations whenever possible. This includes reducing the amount of virgin raw materials used in construction and choosing eco-friendly laminates, paint and carpeting to minimize toxic resins and volatile organic compounds released into the atmosphere. We also recycle construction debris and reuse equipment where possible. Our store in Sarasota, FL received Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (“LEED”) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, the first ever environmentally friendly supermarket designed in accordance with the LEED Green Building Rating System. Our flagship store in Austin, TX is also LEED-certified, and our El Segundo, CA store is LEED-CI (Corporate Interiors) certified. Additionally, we have approximately 20 stores registered to become LEED-certified and more under development.

 

Encouraging Reusable Grocery Bags. Whole Foods Market discontinued the use of disposable plastic grocery bags at the checkouts in all stores in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom on Earth Day, April 22, 2008. We strongly encourage our customers to use reusable grocery bags by providing affordable bags, including our $0.99 A Better Bag made from recycled plastic bottles, and by paying at least a nickel per bag refund at the checkout. Between Earth Day and the end of 2008 alone, we estimate that we will keep 100 million new disposable plastic bags out of our environment.

 

Composting and Recycling. Nearly all of our stores are involved in a recycling program, and most participate in a composting program where food waste and compostable paper goods are regenerated into compost. Additionally, in 2007, we introduced an all-natural fiber packaging that is a compostable, environmentally friendly alternative to traditional petroleum and wood- or tree-based materials. Its fibers come from plants that are cultivated or grow wild and are harvested annually. We are also working to eliminate the use of Styrofoam packing materials in product shipments to our Company.

 

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Products

 

We offer a broad and differentiated product selection with a strong emphasis on perishable foods designed to appeal to both natural and organic foods and gourmet shoppers. Most of our products are from natural and organic food vendors; however, we do sell certain conventional national brands that meet our quality standards.

 

Quality Standards

 

An integral part of our Company mission is to promote the vitality and well-being of all individuals by supplying the highest quality, most wholesome foods available. We evaluate quality in terms of nutrition, freshness, appearance and taste. Our search for quality is a never-ending process involving the careful judgment of buyers throughout the Company.

 

·                  We carefully evaluate each and every product that we sell.

 

·                  We feature foods that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats.

 

·                  We are passionate about great tasting food and the pleasure of sharing it with others.

 

·                  We are committed to foods that are fresh, wholesome and safe to eat.

 

·                  We seek out and promote organically grown foods.

 

·                  We provide food and nutritional products that support health and well-being.

 

We monitor the production and environmental practices of our seafood suppliers and support the seafood sustainability work of the Marine Stewardship Council (“MSC”). The MSC is a global, independent, non-profit fishery certification organization that rewards sustainable fishing practices to ensure healthier marine environments and abundant fish stocks for future generations. We are proud to be the first U.S. retailer offering several varieties of MSC-certified seafood, which display the MSC label to indicate the seafood is sourced from responsible, well-managed fisheries. In addition to offering MSC-certified seafood in our stores, we have also stopped selling several seafood species that are considered by a consensus of seafood experts to be depleted in the oceans.

 

For farmed seafood, our quality standards have always prohibited the use of antibiotics, added growth hormones, preservatives and genetic modification or cloning. In fiscal year 2008, we began implementing a comprehensive set of enhanced farmed seafood standards that include:

 

·                  farm-to-fork traceability from the hatcheries to the ponds, pens, raceways or tanks where the seafood is raised and to the plants where it is processed;

 

·                  requirements that producers minimize the impact of fish farming on the environment by protecting sensitive habitats such as mangrove forests and wetlands, monitoring water quality to prevent pollution, and sourcing feed ingredients responsibly;

 

·                  the prohibition of toxic chemicals such as malachite green and organophosphate; and

 

·                  requirements that producers provide detailed information on their farming practices and pass independent third-party audits.

 

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We also strictly monitor how animals are raised and what they are fed. Our requirements for the meat and poultry we sell in our stores ensure the animals are:

 

·                  raised without antibiotics;

 

·                  raised without added growth hormones in any species, far beyond the federal regulations that prohibit added growth hormones in poultry, pigs, veal or bison;

 

·                  never fed animal byproducts;

 

·                  raised by farmers and ranchers who care about the animals and the environment in which they live; and

 

·                  monitored, from the farm to our stores, to track compliance with our stringent animal welfare and food safety requirements.

 

Animal Welfare Standards

 

In fiscal year 2008, the U.S. office of the World Society for the Protection of Animals ranked Whole Foods Market first in its survey ranking 23 retail grocery corporations in the United States by the availability of humanely labeled food on their shelves, finding that Whole Foods Market offers twice as many humanely labeled products per store as the second rated company.

 

Whole Foods Market is strongly committed to helping create alternatives to the “factory farm” methods of raising livestock. We have encouraged innovative animal production practices to improve the quality and safety of the meat and poultry sold in our stores, while also supporting humane living conditions for the animals. For this reason, we refuse to sell commercial veal from tethered calves, foie gras from force-fed ducks, and eggs from caged hens.

 

In December 2003, we started working through a consultative multi-stakeholder process to develop “Animal Compassionate” standards, farm animal treatment standards that go above and beyond our baseline requirements for the meat and poultry sold in our stores, focused on providing environments and conditions for each species that support the animal’s natural physical, emotional and behavioral well-being. In 2006, that work was then used as a basis for creating meat and poultry production standards categorized according to a framework for continuous improvement of animal welfare on farms and ranches and to provide our customers with a clear and transparent way to make informed buying decisions based solely on animal welfare considerations. In June 2007, we piloted a five-tiered meat and poultry labeling program at our Kensington store in London based on this framework. Further standards development and implementation of the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system was transitioned to the Global Animal Partnership foundation when it was founded in the spring of 2008. Whole Foods Market will conduct a two-year pilot for the Global Animal Partnership to test the implementation of the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system beginning in early 2009, before the foundation extends the program to other retailers.

 

Product Selection

 

Our product selection includes, but is not limited to: produce, seafood, grocery, meat and poultry, bakery, prepared foods and catering, specialty (beer, wine and cheese), coffee and tea, nutritional supplements, vitamins, body care and educational products such as books, floral, pet products and household products.

 

We believe our heavy emphasis on perishable products differentiates us from other supermarkets and helps us attract a broader customer base. We believe that all shoppers, not just natural and organic food shoppers, appreciate great produce, dairy, meat, seafood, bakery and prepared foods. We believe it is our strength of execution in perishables that has attracted many of our most loyal customers.

 

Locally Grown

 

Our history and reputation are intimately linked to our support of local farmers. For more than 28 years, we have provided our customers with the broadest possible selection of the highest quality produce available. Our search for produce begins right outside our front door in every community where we do business. We are committed to buying from local producers whose products meet our high quality standards, particularly those who are dedicated to environmentally friendly, sustainable agriculture. We are greatly increasing our efforts in this regard by further empowering our individual store and regional buyers to seek out locally grown products. We value this natural diversity and have firm guidelines for using the term “local” in our stores. For example, only produce that has traveled less than seven hours from the farm to our facility can be labeled “locally grown.”

 

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Whole Foods Market currently purchases produce from over 2,000 different farms through various suppliers. Of the Company’s top 10 produce suppliers, eight represent independent farms with privately held ownership. We believe we can and should do more to support local producers. To that end, we have established a budget of up to $10 million to promote local agriculture, especially animal agriculture, wherever we have stores through long-term loans ranging from $1,000 to $100,000 at low interest rates. We completed our first loan through the Local Producer Loan Program in February 2007 and so far have disbursed more than $1.7 million in loans to over 30 local producers company-wide. Loan recipients must use funds for expansion and not operating expenses, meet Whole Foods Market’s quality standards, and have a viable business plan and adequate cash flow to service the debt. Eligible products include agricultural crops, value-added food products, and other all-natural grocery items.

 

In addition, we provide space in our parking lots throughout the year for local farmers to sell their products directly to our customers, working in concert with existing farmers’ markets when possible. Our stores have excellent locations and strong customer traffic to help these farmers’ markets flourish, and their presence at our stores provides more local choices for our customers. Also, in 2008, we co-sponsored Farm Aid’s 2008 concert to support America’s family farms and raise awareness about sustaining local agriculture. As part of this sponsorship, our culinary team prepared 4,000 meals at the event using local products.

 

Whole TradeTM Guarantee

 

In March 2007, we launched our Whole Trade Guarantee program, a buying initiative that expands our social responsibility to bring together a set of strict criteria for products sourced from developing countries. In a shrinking global marketplace, the Whole Trade program is a logical extension of our values that promote quality in everything we do, from products and business practices to caring for our team members, communities and the environment. The products in this program must meet specific criteria in four areas of responsibility. They must:

 

·                  meet our high quality standards;

 

·                  provide more money to producers;

 

·                  ensure better wages and working conditions for workers; and

 

·                  care for the environment.

 

Products under the Whole Trade Guarantee meeting these criteria are purchased at a price that is equal to or greater than the internationally recognized fair trade price. For these products, Whole Foods Market donates 1% of sales to the Whole Planet Foundation to help end world poverty.

 

Our Whole Trade Guarantee label is currently featured on over 960 items, and sales of approximately $44 million in fiscal year 2008 generated approximately $442,000 for the Whole Planet Foundation.

 

Private Label

 

An extension of our leadership position in the natural and organic foods industry is our strong family of private label brands. These products extend the confidence and trust our customers have in our stores to their everyday lives. We have built upon this trust and over the last several years have significantly expanded our private label resources and offerings, which currently feature over 2,300 SKUs led by our primary brands, 365 Everyday Value and 365 Organic. These products are designed to cover the full spectrum of category needs: from the highest quality, value entry-point products to super premium, unique offerings that cater to true food aficionados. While some of our private label products yield greater margins than their comparable brand alternative, their primary purpose is to help differentiate our product selection and provide more value offerings.

 

In addition to these nationally-driven programs, we have a number of store-made and regionally-made fresh items sold under the Whole Foods Market label. We also offer specialty and organic coffee, tea and drinking chocolates through our Allegro Coffee Company subsidiary. In addition, we have developed a grouping of “exclusive” and “control brand” products to fill out our family of brands. Control brands are brands produced exclusively for Whole Foods Market and not available to other retailers (e.g., Eternal Water). Exclusive products are either co-branded with the national brand and Whole Foods Market brand or are a unique formulation or attribute only available at Whole Foods Market. These products help continue to differentiate Whole Foods Market selections across all aspects of our various product categories. We currently have over 300 exclusive-branded products across the center store.

 

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Private label sales in grocery accounted for approximately 25% of our total retail sales in that product category in fiscal year 2008, up from 18% in fiscal year 2007. Total private label sales across all teams accounted for approximately 10% of our retail sales in fiscal year 2008, up from 9% of our retail sales in fiscal year 2007, reflecting the roll-out of approximately 300 new items in fiscal year 2008. We believe our private label sales could grow to a much higher percentage of our sales over time as we continue to focus on the development and growth of our product lines.

 

Economic Value Added

 

We use Economic Value Added (“EVA”™) as a basis for our business decisions and for determining incentive compensation. In its simplest definition, EVA is equivalent to net operating profits after taxes minus a charge for the cost of invested capital necessary to generate those profits. We believe one of our core strengths is our decentralized culture, where decisions are made at the store level, close to the customer. We believe this is one of our strongest competitive advantages and that EVA is the best financial framework that team members can use to help make decisions that create sustainable shareholder value.

 

We use EVA extensively for capital investment decisions, including evaluating new store real estate decisions and store remodeling proposals. We only invest in projects that we believe will add long-term value to the Company. The EVA decision-making model also enhances operating decisions in stores. Our emphasis is on EVA improvement, as we want to challenge our teams to continue to innovate and grow EVA in new ways. We believe that opportunities always exist to increase sales and margins, to lower operating expenses and to make investments that add value in ways that benefit all of our stakeholders. We believe that focusing on EVA improvement encourages continuous improvement of our business.

 

Approximately 1,000 leaders throughout the Company are on EVA-based incentive compensation plans, of which the primary measure is EVA improvement. EVA-based plans cover our senior executive leadership, regional leadership and the store leadership team (store team leaders and assistant store team leaders) in all stores. Incentive compensation for each of these groups is determined based on relevant EVA measures at different levels, including the total Company level, the regional level, the store or facility level, and the team level. We believe using EVA in a multi-dimensional approach best measures the results of decisions made at different levels of the Company. We expect EVA to remain a significant component of our compensation structure throughout the Company in the coming years.

 

Information about our EVA financial results is not presented because of rules adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) regarding non-GAAP financial measures. Additional information about our EVA financial results is available on our corporate website at www.wholefoodsmarket.com but is not incorporated by reference into this Form 10-K.

 

Wild Oats Markets, Inc.

 

On August 28, 2007, we completed the acquisition of Wild Oats Markets, Inc., in a cash tender offer of $18.50 per share, or approximately $565 million plus the assumption of approximately $148 million in existing debt. At the time of our acquisition, Wild Oats had 109 stores in 23 states and British Columbia, Canada operating under four banners: Wild Oats Marketplace (nationwide), Henry’s Farmers Market (in Southern California), Sun Harvest (in Texas), and Capers Community Market (in British Columbia). On September 30, 2007, we completed the sale of all 27 Henry’s Farmers Market and eight Sun Harvest store locations and a related Riverside, CA distribution center to a wholly owned subsidiary of Smart & Final, Inc., a Los Angeles-based food retailer, for approximately $165 million. In fiscal year 2008, we closed 13 Wild Oats stores and relocated six stores in connection with the opening of new Whole Foods Market stores in those areas. Net of these closures and relocations, the Company had 55 Wild Oats and Capers locations at the end of fiscal year 2008, with plans to close one additional store and relocate two additional Wild Oats stores in fiscal year 2009. During fiscal year 2008, the Company completed the conversion of all Wild Oats stores to the Company’s purchasing and information systems, transitioned all Wild Oats team members to the Company’s payroll, benefits and incentive compensation plans, eliminated all corporate positions at the Wild Oats home office in Boulder, CO, and rebranded 45 Wild Oat stores with Whole Foods Market store fronts and signage.

 

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The following table provides additional information about the Company’s acquired Wild Oats store locations as of September 28, 2008:

 

 

 

Stores at
Beginning of
Fiscal Year

 

Stores
Relocated

 

Stores
Closed

 

Stores at
End of
Fiscal Year

 

Total stores acquired

 

74

 

(6

)

(13

)

55

 

Average size (gross square feet)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24,000

 

Total gross square footage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1,342,000

 

Average age (in years)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10.2

 

 

Growth Strategy

 

Whole Foods Market’s growth strategy is to expand through a combination of new store openings and acquisitions of existing stores. We have a disciplined, opportunistic real estate strategy, opening stores in existing trade areas as well as new sites, including international locations. Our new stores typically range in size between 35,000 and 50,000 square feet and are located on premium real estate sites. We have also grown through acquisitions, with approximately 25% of our existing square footage coming from acquisitions. Because the food retailing industry is highly fragmented and comprised of many smaller local and regional chains, we may continue to pursue acquisitions of smaller chains that provide access to desirable locations and experienced team members. Going forward, however, such acquisitions are not expected to impact our future store growth or financial results due to the size of the Company’s existing store base.

 

We have an ongoing relocation strategy and each year relocate some of our smaller stores to larger locations with improved visibility and parking. For the 17 stores relocated in fiscal years 2004 through 2008, the overall average increase in size was approximately 129%. Our historical store growth is summarized below:

 

 

 

2008

 

2007

 

2006

 

2005

 

2004

 

Stores at beginning of fiscal year

 

276

 

186

 

175

 

163

 

145

 

Stores opened

 

20

 

21

 

13

 

15

 

12

 

Acquired stores

 

 

109

 

1

 

 

7

 

Divested stores

 

 

(35

)

 

 

 

Relocations and closures

 

(21

)

(5

)

(3

)

(3

)

(1

)

Stores at end of fiscal year

 

275

 

276

 

186

 

175

 

163

 

Remodels with major expansions(1)

 

1

 

2

 

1

 

 

2

 

Total gross square footage at end of fiscal year

 

9,895,000

 

9,312,000

 

6,377,000

 

5,819,000

 

5,145,000

 

(1) Defined as remodels with expansions of square footage greater than 20% completed during the fiscal year.

 

In fiscal year 2008, we terminated 13 leases for stores in development totaling 679,000 square feet, or an average of 52,000 square feet per store. As of November 5, 2008, we had signed leases for 66 stores scheduled to open through fiscal year 2012 totaling approximately 3.3 million square feet, or approximately 33% of our existing square footage. These stores, which average approximately 49,000 square feet in size, include 13 relocations and eight new areas. Our historical growth in stores in development is summarized below:

 

 

 

November 5,
2008

 

November 20,
2007

 

November 2,
2006

 

November 9,
2005

 

November 10,
2004

 

Stores in development

 

66

 

87

 

88

 

65

 

53

 

Average size (gross square feet)

 

49,000

 

51,000

 

56,000

 

55,000

 

49,000

 

Total gross square footage in development

 

3,294,000

 

4,485,000

 

5,003,000

 

3,626,000

 

2,594,000

 

As a percentage of existing square footage

 

33

%

48

%

77

%

60

%

50

%

 

We are focused on the right sized store for each location and, since announcing in the third quarter of 2007 our intent to decrease the size of several leases in development, we have downsized nine leases by an average of 13,000 square feet each. We currently operate 10 stores in excess of 65,000 gross square feet and have an additional 10 stores of that size in development, five of which are relocations. While our larger-format stores are very powerful in dense urban areas and certain other limited circumstances, we recognize that smaller stores can also produce great returns for us as well. We believe a store size of 35,000 to 50,000 square feet is appropriate in most circumstances to maximize return on invested capital and EVA, and we expect the majority of our stores to fall within that range going forward.

 

Tender dates provide some visibility on the timing of our new store openings. For accounting purposes, a property is considered tendered on the date we take possession of the leased space for construction and other purposes, which is typically

 

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when the shell of the store is complete or close to completion. As of November 5, 2008, 11 of our 66 stores in development had been tendered to us, six of which currently are expected to open in fiscal year 2009. These 11 stores total approximately 511,000 square feet.

 

The “tender period,” which we define as the length of time between a store’s tender date and opening date, varies depending on several factors, some of which are outside of our control. These factors include the size of the store and complexity of site development, the impact of weather and unforeseen environmental issues, and issues surrounding construction labor unions and local government authorities, among other things. Furthermore, acquired leases, ground leases and owned properties generally have longer tender periods than standard operating leases because we take possession of these locations earlier in the construction process. For stores opened during the past two fiscal years, the average tender period was 9.3 months.

 

The following table provides information about the Company’s store development activities:

 

 

 

Stores Opened
During Fiscal
Year 2007

 

Stores Opened
During Fiscal
Year 2008

 

Properties
Tendered
as of
November 5, 2008

 

Total
Leases Signed
as of
November 5, 2008

 

Number of stores (including relocations)

 

21

 

20

 

11

 

66

 

Number of relocations

 

5

 

6

 

2

 

13

 

Number of lease acquisitions, ground leases and owned properties

 

4

 

4

 

6

 

8

 

New areas

 

3

 

3

 

2

 

8

 

Average store size (gross square feet)

 

56,500

 

53,000

 

46,400

 

49,100

 

As a percentage of existing store average size

 

167

%

146

%

128

%

135

%

Total square footage

 

1,185,800

 

1,060,700

 

510,900

 

3,293,900

 

As a percentage of existing square footage

 

13

%

11

%

5

%

33

%

Average tender period in months

 

8.8

 

9.7

 

 

 

 

 

Average pre-opening expense per store

 

$

2.6 million

(1)

$

2.5 million

 

 

 

 

 

Average pre-opening rent per store

 

$

0.9 million

(1)

$

1.1 million

 

 

 

 

 

Average development cost

 

$

15.1 million

(1)

$

15.8 million

 

 

 

 

 

Average development cost per square foot

 

$

278

(1)

$

297

(2)

 

 

 

 

(1)Average pre-opening and development costs exclude the Kensington store opened in London during fiscal year 2007.

(2)Average development costs exclude pre-opening and include estimated costs for stores not yet final.

 

Site Selection

 

Most of our stores are located in high-traffic shopping areas and are either freestanding or in a strip center. We also have a number of urban stores located in high-density, mixed-use projects. In selecting store locations, we use an internally developed model to analyze potential sites based on various criteria such as education levels, population density and income levels within certain drive times. We primarily seek to open stores that typically range in size from 35,000 to 50,000 square feet and are located on premier real estate sites, often in urban, high-population locales. After we have selected a target site, our development group does a comprehensive site study and sales projection. Each project must meet an internal EVA hurdle return.

 

The required cash investment for new stores varies depending on the size of the store, geographic location, degree of work performed by the landlord and complexity of site development issues. For stores opened during the past two fiscal years excluding Kensington in London, the average size was 53,700 square feet, and our new store investment averaged approximately $15.4 million excluding pre-opening and relocation expenses, which averaged approximately $2.5 million per store.

 

Store Operations

 

Team Approach to Store Operations

 

We strive to promote a strong Company culture featuring a team approach to store operations that we believe is distinctly more empowering of team members than that of the traditional supermarket. Our domestic Whole Foods Market stores each employs between 25 and 600 team members who comprise up to 13 teams per store, each led by a team leader. Each team within a store is responsible for a different product offerings or aspect of store operations such as customer service, prepared foods, or grocery, among others. We also promote a decentralized team approach to store operations in which many decisions are made by teams at the individual store level. In this structure, an effective store team leader is critical to the success of the store. The store team leader works closely with one or more associate store team leaders, as well as with all of the department team leaders, to operate the store as efficiently and profitably as possible. Each year, our team members are asked to complete

 

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a confidential, third party-administered team leader survey, which provides them with an opportunity to give their leaders constructive feedback.

 

We believe our success is dependent on the collective energy and intelligence of all of our team members. We strive to create a work environment where motivated team members can flourish and reach their highest potential, and where they are inspired by work that provides them with a greater sense of purpose and mission. For many team members, their job is an extension of their personal philosophy and lifestyle. Together, we go to great lengths to satisfy and delight our customers.

 

Team members are involved at all levels of our business. We strive to create a Company-wide consciousness of “shared fate” by uniting the interests of team members as closely as possible with the interests of our shareholders. One way we reinforce this concept is through gainsharing. Our gainsharing program rewards things such as labor productivity that team members can control, giving them a direct stake in the success of our business. We also encourage stock ownership among team members through the following programs:

 

·                  Team Member Stock Option Plan. All full-time and part-time team members are eligible to receive a grant of stock options each year. The annual grant has two components: (i) Annual Leadership Grants to recognize and incentivize team member performance; and (ii) Service Hour Grants to recognize team member service to the Company. In 2008 our Board of Directors awarded approximately 2.2 million options to more than 17,400 team members. Of these stock options, 96% were granted to non-executives, with 47% awarded as Service Hour Grants alone.

 

·                  Team Member Stock Purchase Plan. Through bi-weekly payroll deductions, all U.S.-based non-seasonal team members with at least 400 service hours may elect to purchase unrestricted shares of our stock at 95% of market value on the purchase date. The shares are purchased for the plan participants on a quarterly basis.

 

·                  Team Member 401(k) Plan. Whole Foods Market stock is an investment option within the Company’s 401(k) plan.

 

Store Description

 

We do not have a standard store design model. Instead, each store’s design is customized to fit the size and configuration of the particular location and community in which it is located. Our culture and philosophy is one of continual innovation and experimentation, and successful experiments are voluntarily picked up and improved upon by our stores. We strive to transform food shopping from a chore into a dynamic experience by building and operating stores with colorful décor, well-trained team members, exciting product mixes, teams of in-store chefs, ever-changing selections, samples, open kitchens, scratch bakeries, hand-stacked produce, prepared foods stations and European-style charcuterie departments. To further a sense of community and interaction with customers, our stores typically include sit-down eating areas, customer comment boards and customer service booths. We have “Take Action” centers for our customers who want to be informed on important issues relative to environmental, legislative, food safety and product quality issues that can directly affect our customers’ health and well-being. In addition, some stores offer special services such as massage, valet parking and home delivery. We believe our stores play a unique role as a third place, besides the home and office, where people can gather, interact and learn while at the same time discovering the many joys of eating and sharing food.

 

Purchasing and Distribution

 

Our buyers purchase products for retail sale from local, regional, national and international wholesale suppliers and vendors. The majority of our purchasing, an estimated 90% of the total center store, occurs at the regional and national levels. This enables us to negotiate better volume discounts with major vendors and distributors, while allowing our regional and store buyers to focus on local products and the unique product mix necessary to keep a neighborhood market feel in our stores. We are increasingly focusing more of our purchasing on producer-direct and manufacture-direct programs, and we remain committed to buying from local producers that meet our high quality standards.

 

We own two produce procurement centers which facilitate the procurement and distribution of the majority of the produce we sell. We also operate four seafood-processing and distribution facilities, a specialty coffee and tea procurement and brewing operation, a confectionary, and nine regional distribution centers, which distribute a full range of products to our stores across the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. In addition, we have five regional commissary kitchens and eight bakehouse facilities, all of which distribute products to our stores. Other products are typically procured through a combination of specialty wholesalers and direct distributors.

 

United Natural Foods, Inc. is our single largest third-party supplier, accounting for approximately 32% of our total purchases in fiscal year 2008. In November 2006, we extended our long-term relationship with United Natural Foods as our primary supplier of dry grocery and frozen food products. Our seven-year agreement allows us to concentrate our capital and

 

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resources on executing on our new store development pipeline and to focus our internal distribution efforts around key perishable departments.

 

Marketing

 

We spend much less on advertising and marketing than other supermarkets – approximately 0.5% of our total sales in fiscal year 2008. Instead, we rely on word-of-mouth recommendations and testimonials from our shoppers, and we allocate our marketing budgets among national and regional programs and our individual stores. Our stores spend most of their marketing budgets on in-store marketing-related activities, including promotional signage and events such as local farmers’ markets, taste fairs, classes, tours and product samplings. Our marketing support mirrors our business model, as well as our commitment to the community and environment. Each store retains a separate budget for making contributions to a variety of philanthropic and community activities, fostering goodwill and developing a high profile with the community. Contributions (including in-kind contributions of food) to not-for-profit organizations amount to at least 5% of our after-tax profits annually.

 

Customer Service

 

Customers are our most important stakeholder, because without our customers, we would have no business. We genuinely care about the well-being of our customers and empower our team members to do whatever it takes to meet or exceed their expectations on every shopping trip. By doing so, we turn our customers into advocates for our business who do more than shop with us; they recommend Whole Foods Market to their friends and others. We want to serve our customers competently, efficiently, and knowledgeably. We believe that we generate greater appreciation and loyalty from our customers by educating them about natural and organic foods, health, nutrition and the environment through our in-store “Take Action” centers, The Whole Deal newsletter, Value Tours, as well as on our corporate website.

 

Team Members

 

As of September 28, 2008, we had approximately 52,900 team members, including approximately 46,800 full-time, 3,800 part-time and 2,200 temporary team members. We are proud that 92% of our permanent team members are full-time team members, which we believe is very high for the food retailing industry and allows us to better serve our customers.

 

One of our core values is supporting team member happiness and excellence, and we believe our innovative and egalitarian work environment with team members involved at all levels of our business is a major reason for our success. We believe happy team members create happy customers, and happy customers create happy investors. Team members who have a voice in shaping the direction of our Company and their future are empowered to make Whole Foods Market not only a great place to shop but a great place to build a career. All of our full-time and part-time team members are eligible to receive stock options. In addition, team members are encouraged to take an active role in choosing the benefits made available by the Company by participating in a Company-wide benefits vote every three years. The Company’s second vote was held in fiscal year 2006 to determine the benefits program that will be in place from 2007 through 2009. Approximately 77% of eligible team members voted in this important process, resulting in a benefits package that reflects the needs and desires of the majority of team members in the Company. One outcome of the vote is that Whole Foods Market provides healthcare at no cost to eligible full-time team members. Eligible full-time team members are those who work 30 or more hours per week and have worked a minimum of 800 service hours. Dependent healthcare premiums are shared based on a team member’s tenure with the Company; the team member’s share decreases as his/her tenure increases.

 

For the past 11 years, our team members have helped Whole Foods Market become one of FORTUNE magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America.” In scoring companies, Fortune places the greatest weight (two-thirds of the total) on responses to a random survey of 400 employees, with the remainder being Fortune’s evaluation of each company’s credibility, respect, fairness and pride/camaraderie. Ranking number 16 in 2008, we are one of only 14 companies to make the “100 Best” list for 11 consecutive years since its inception.

 

Competition

 

Food retailing is a large, intensely competitive industry. Our competition varies across the company and includes but is not limited to local, regional, national and international conventional and specialty supermarkets, natural foods stores, warehouse membership clubs, smaller specialty stores, and restaurants, each of which competes with us on the basis of product selection, quality, customer service, price or a combination of these factors. We believe our commitment to natural and organic products, high quality standards, emphasis on perishable product sales, our focus on customer service, and our competitive prices on comparable products differentiates us in this marketplace. We also believe our strongest competitive advantage is our culture and empowered team members.

 

Natural and organic food is one of the fastest growing segments of food retailing today. Most supermarkets offer at least a limited selection of these products, while some have chosen to expand their selection more aggressively. We believe it works to our benefit for other supermarkets to offer natural and organic products for two reasons: first, it helps fulfill our

 

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Company mission to improve the health, well-being and healing of both people and the planet, and second, it helps create new customers for us by creating a gateway experience. As more people are exposed to the benefits of natural and organic products, we believe they are more likely to become Whole Foods Market customers since we are a category leader for natural and organic products, offering one of the largest selections and most informed customer service at competitive prices.

 

Competition makes us a better retailer. We are constantly evolving, innovating and maturing, and we have a long track record of responding to competition and improving from it. We believe we are better positioned from a value and price perspective today than we ever have been. Our buy-side initiatives are continuing to deliver opportunities that will allow us to be more price competitive, and we are leveraging our global buying power to the benefit of our customers. On the sell side, we remain focused on innovation that redefines the marketplace and further differentiates our stores, products, and customer experience from the competition.

 

The Whole Deal

 

Whole Foods Market has always provided customers with a great value on the products we offer: high-quality perishables and products from sources consumers trust, thanks to our rigorous Quality Standards and focus on natural and organic foods. Through our national “The Whole Deal” campaign launched in fiscal year 2008, we are emphasizing the value side of our story even more. The Whole Deal is about giving customers the whole story to help them stretch their grocery and household dollars further without sacrificing the benefits of natural and organic foods. The program includes The Whole Deal newsletter available in our stores, which contains coupons, budget recipes, money saving tips and more; in-store Value Tours led by our “Value Gurus” to help shoppers find the best deals in every department; and Sure Deal specials, which are special deals on high-quality products our customers want, not discounts on overstocked or discontinued items.

 

Government and Public Affairs

 

Our stores are subject to various local, state, federal and international laws, regulations and administrative practices affecting our business. We must comply with provisions regulating health and sanitation standards, food labeling, equal employment, minimum wages and licensing for the sale of food and, in some stores, alcoholic beverages.

 

The manufacturing, processing, formulating, packaging, labeling and advertising of products are subject to regulation by various federal agencies including the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”), the USDA and the EPA. The composition and labeling of nutritional supplements are most actively regulated by the FDA under the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FFDC Act”). The FFDC Act has been revised in recent years with respect to dietary supplements by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act and by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. We believe we are materially in compliance with product labeling requirements.

 

Trademarks

 

Trademarks owned by the Company or its subsidiaries include, but are not limited to: “Whole Foods Market,” “365 Everyday Value,” “365 Organic Everyday Value,” “AFA,” “Allegro Coffee Company,” “Wild Oats,” “Wild Oats Marketplace,” “Capers Community Market,” “Bread & Circus,” “Fresh & Wild,” “Fresh Fields,” “Global Local,” “Green Mission,” “Harry’s Farmers Market,” “Merchant of Vino,” “Mrs. Gooch’s,” “Vine Buys,” “Wellspring,” “Whole Baby,” “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet,” “Whole Kids Organic,” and “Whole Trade.” The Company or its subsidiaries also holds registrations or applications, and maintains common law trademark rights for stylized logos and brand names for products created by Allegro Coffee Company and many of its private label products.

 

wholefoodsmarket.com

 

Our corporate website at www.wholefoodsmarket.com averages over 50,000 visitors each day and provides detailed information about our Company, history, product offerings and store locations, with hundreds of recipes and a library of information about environmental, legislative, health, food safety and product quality issues. In addition, access to the Company’s SEC filings, including annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, Section 16 filings, and all amendments to those reports, are available through our website free of charge, as soon as reasonably practicable after these reports are filed electronically with the SEC. As with our stores, the focus of our website is customer service. We believe our website provides us with an opportunity to further our relationships with customers, suppliers and investors, to educate them on a variety of issues, and to improve our service levels.

 

In 2008, our website underwent some big changes. In addition to seeing a major facelift throughout the site, customers can now create a personalized profile that keeps track of their favorite parts of the site and a “home” store; rate and review recipes; share value shopping tips; contribute to forums and interact with other Whole Foods Market stakeholders; and check out the new “Whole Story” blog, which is regularly updated for all of the new and exciting things going on at the Company

 

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and our stores. The new wholefoodsmarket.com website is just one part of our expanded internet community for stakeholders, which also includes sites like Facebook and Twitter.

 

We have included our website address only as an inactive textual reference. The information contained on our website is not incorporated by reference into this Report on Form 10-K.

 

Executive Officers of the Registrant

 

The following table sets forth the name, age, tenure with the Company in years, and position of each of the persons who was serving as an executive officer of the Company as of November 21, 2008:

 

Name

 

Age

 

Tenure

 

Position

 

John P. Mackey

 

55

 

30

 

Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

 

A.C. Gallo

 

55

 

15

 

Co-President and Chief Operating Officer

 

Walter Robb

 

55

 

17

 

Co-President and Chief Operating Officer

 

Glenda Chamberlain

 

55

 

20

 

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

 

James P. Sud

 

56

 

11

 

Executive Vice President of Growth and Business Development

 

 

John P. Mackey, co-founder of the Company, has served as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer since 1980.

 

A.C. Gallo has served as Co-President of the Company since September 2004 and as Co-Chief Operating Officer since December 2003. Mr. Gallo has held various positions with the Company and with Bread & Circus, Inc., which was acquired by the Company in October 1992, including Vice President and President of the North Atlantic Region, and Executive Vice President of Operations.

 

Walter Robb has served as Co-President of the Company since September 2004 and as Co-Chief Operating Officer since December 2003. Since joining the Company in 1991, Mr. Robb has also served as Store Team Leader, President of the Northern Pacific Region, and Executive Vice President of Operations.

 

Glenda Chamberlain has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the Company since December 1988.

 

James P. Sud has served as Executive Vice President of Growth and Business Development since February 2001. Mr. Sud joined the Company in May 1997 and served as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer until February 2001. Mr. Sud served as a director of the Company from 1980 to 1997.

 

Item 1A.     Risk Factors.

 

We wish to caution you that there are risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to be materially different from those indicated by forward-looking statements that we make from time to time in filings with the SEC, news releases, reports, proxy statements, registration statements and other written communications, as well as oral forward-looking statements made from time to time by representatives of the Company. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, the risks described below. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial also may impair our business operations. The cautionary statements below discuss important factors that could cause our business, financial condition, operating results and cash flows to be materially adversely affected. The Company does not undertake any obligation to update forward-looking statements.

 

Our Growth Is Significantly Dependent on New Store Openings and Acquisitions

 

Our strategy is to expand through a combination of new store openings and, to a lesser extent, acquisitions of existing store locations or businesses. Successful implementation of this strategy is contingent on numerous conditions, some of which are described below, and there can be no assurance that this expansion strategy can be successfully executed.

 

Our continued growth depends to a significant degree on our ability to open or acquire new stores in existing and new locations and to operate these stores successfully. Our expansion strategy is dependent on finding suitable locations, and we face intense competition from other retailers for such sites. There can be no assurance that we will continue to grow through new store openings and/or acquisitions. We may not be able to timely open new stores or operate them successfully. Also, we may not be able to successfully hire and train new team members or integrate those team members into the programs and policies of the Company. We may not be able to adapt our distribution, management information and other operating systems to adequately supply products to new stores at competitive prices so that we can operate the stores in a successful and profitable manner.

 

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Our Business May be Sensitive to Economic Conditions that Impact Consumer Spending

 

Our results of operations may be sensitive to changes in overall economic conditions that impact consumer spending, including discretionary spending. Future economic conditions affecting disposable consumer income such as employment levels, business conditions, changes in housing market conditions, the availability of credit, interest rates, tax rates, fuel and energy costs, the impact of natural disasters or acts of terrorism, and other matters could reduce consumer spending or cause consumers to shift their spending to lower-priced competitors. A general reduction in the level of discretionary spending or shifts in consumer discretionary spending to our competitors could adversely affect our growth and profitability.

 

We May Not Realize the Benefits from Acquisitions Contemplated at the Time of Transaction

 

Risks we may face in connection with acquisitions include being unable to successfully integrate acquired businesses into our operations and support systems, or the operations of acquired businesses may be adversely affected by the introduction of our decentralized operational approach. Costs associated with integrating the operations of acquired companies may be greater than anticipated. Also, the integration of acquired operations into our operations requires the dedication of management resources that may detract attention from our day-to-day business to a degree greater than anticipated. An acquisition may not further our business strategy as we expected, or we may pay more than the acquired company or assets are worth. Our due diligence process may fail to identify all of the problems, liabilities or other significant issues of an acquired company. These risks associated with acquisitions could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition or cash flows.

 

New Stores May Negatively Impact Our Results

 

There can be no assurance that our new store openings will be successful or result in greater sales and profitability for the Company. New stores build their sales volumes and refine their merchandise selection over time and, as a result, generally have lower gross margins and higher operating expenses as a percentage of sales than our more mature stores. There may be a negative impact on our results from a lower contribution of new stores, along with the impact of related pre-opening and relocation costs.

 

We May Experience Significant Fluctuations in Our Comparable Store Sales

 

Our comparable store sales could fluctuate or be lower than our historical average for many reasons including new and acquired stores entering into the comparable store base, the opening of new stores that cannibalize store sales in existing areas, general economic conditions, increased competition, price changes in response to competitive factors, possible supply shortages, and cycling against any year of above-average sales results. Our results of operations may be materially impacted by fluctuations in our comparable store sales as the result of lower sales, lower gross profits and/or greater operating costs such as marketing.

 

We May Experience Significant Fluctuations in Our Quarterly Operating Results

 

Our quarterly operating results could fluctuate for many reasons, including losses from new stores, variations in the mix of product sales, price changes in response to competitive factors and a potential lack of customer acceptance, foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations, increases in store operating costs, including commodity costs, that are either wholly or partially beyond our control, possible supply shortages, general economic conditions, legal costs, insurance costs, extreme weather-related disruptions, including hurricanes and earthquakes, and potential uninsured casualty losses or other losses. In addition, our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly as the result of the timing of new store openings, construction and pre-opening expenses, the timing of acquisitions, store closures and relocations, and the range of operating results generated from newly opened stores. Quarter-to-quarter comparisons of results of operations have been and may be materially impacted by the timing of new store openings.

 

Increased Competition May Have an Adverse Effect on Profitability

 

Our competitors include but are not limited to local, regional, national and international supermarkets, natural food stores, warehouse membership clubs, small specialty stores and restaurants. These businesses compete with us for products, customers, and locations. In addition, some are expanding more aggressively in marketing a range of natural and organic foods. Some of these potential competitors may have been in business longer or may have greater financial or marketing resources than we do and may be able to devote greater resources to sourcing, promoting and selling their products. As competition in certain areas intensifies, our results of operations may be negatively impacted through a loss of sales, reduction in margin from competitive price changes, and/or greater operating costs such as marketing.

 

Our Results Are Subject to the Risks of Doing Business in Other Countries

 

In fiscal year 2008, sales at our stores in Canada and the U.K. accounted for approximately 3% of our total sales. Though small as a percentage of total sales, the Company’s international operations are subject to certain risks of conducting business

 

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abroad, including fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates, changes in regulatory requirements, and changes or uncertainties in the economic, social and political conditions in the Company’s geographic areas, among other things.

 

Legal Proceedings Could Materially Impact Our Results

 

From time to time, we are party to legal proceedings, including matters involving personnel and employment issues, personal injury, intellectual property, acquisitions, and other proceedings arising in the ordinary course of business. In addition, the FTC has resumed its administrative action challenging the Company’s August 28, 2007 acquisition of Wild Oats Markets. Our results could be materially impacted by the decisions and expenses related to pending or future proceedings.

 

We May Be Subject to Product Liability Claims if People Are Harmed By the Products We Sell

 

There is increasing governmental scrutiny of and public awareness regarding food safety. We believe that many customers choose to shop our stores because of their interest in health, nutrition and food safety. We believe that our customers hold us to a higher food safety standard than other supermarkets. The real or perceived sale of contaminated food products by us could result in product liability claims, the settlement or outcome of which might have a material adverse effect on our sales and operations.

 

The Loss of Key Management Could Negatively Affect Our Business

 

We are dependent upon a number of key management and other team members. If we were to lose the services of a significant number of key team members within a short period of time, this could have a material adverse effect on our operations. We do not maintain key person insurance on any team member. Our continued success is also dependent upon our ability to attract and retain qualified team members to meet our future growth needs. We face intense competition for qualified team members, many of whom are subject to offers from competing employers. We may not be able to attract and retain necessary team members to operate our business.

 

Unions May Attempt to Organize Our Team Members

 

Unions have from time to time attempted to organize all or part of our team member base at certain stores and non-retail facilities. Responding to such organization attempts is distracting to management and team members and may have a negative financial impact on a store, facility or the Company as a whole.

 

Unfavorable Changes in Government Regulation Could Harm Our Business

 

Our stores are subject to various international, federal, state and local laws, regulations and administrative practices affecting our business, and we must comply with provisions regulating health and sanitation standards, food labeling, equal employment, minimum wages and licensing for the sale of food and, in some stores, alcoholic beverages. Our new store openings could be delayed or prevented or our existing stores could be impacted by difficulties or failures in our ability to obtain or maintain required approvals or licenses.

 

The manufacturing, processing, formulating, packaging, labeling and advertising of products are subject to regulation by various federal agencies including the FDA, FTC, CPSC, USDA and EPA. The composition and labeling of nutritional supplements are most actively regulated by the FDA under the provisions of the FFDC Act. The FFDC Act has been revised in recent years with respect to dietary supplements by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act and by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act.

 

The USDA’s Organic Rule facilitates interstate commerce and the marketing of organically produced food and provides assurance to our customers that such products meet consistent, uniform standards. Compliance with this rule could pose a significant burden on some of our suppliers, which may cause a disruption in some of our product offerings.

 

We cannot predict the nature of future laws, regulations, interpretations or applications, or determine what effect either additional government regulations or administrative orders, when and if promulgated, or disparate federal, state and local regulatory schemes would have on our business in the future. They could, however, require the reformulation of certain products to meet new standards, the recall or discontinuance of certain products not able to be reformulated, additional record keeping, expanded documentation of the properties of certain products, expanded or different labeling and/or scientific substantiation. Any or all of such requirements could have an adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.

 

A Widespread Health Epidemic Could Materially Impact Our Business

 

The Company’s business could be severely impacted by a widespread regional, national or global health epidemic. Our stores are a place where customers come together, interact and learn while at the same time discovering the many joys of eating and sharing food. A widespread health epidemic may cause customers to avoid public gathering places or otherwise change their

 

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shopping behaviors. Additionally, a widespread health epidemic could also adversely impact our business by disrupting production and delivery of products to our stores and by impacting our ability to appropriately staff our stores.

 

Changes in the Availability of Quality Natural and Organic Products Could Impact Our Business

 

There is no assurance that quality natural and organic products will be available to meet our future needs. If other supermarkets significantly increase their natural and organic product offerings or if new laws require the reformulation of certain products to meet tougher standards, the supply of these products may be constrained. Any significant disruption in the supply of quality natural and organic products could have a material impact on our overall sales and cost of goods sold.

 

Perishable Foods Product Losses Could Materially Impact Our Results

 

We believe our stores more heavily emphasize perishable products than other supermarket stores. Perishable products accounted for approximately 67% of total sales at Whole Foods Market locations in fiscal year 2008. The Company’s emphasis on perishable products may result in significant product inventory losses in the event of extended power outages, natural disasters or other catastrophic occurrences.

 

Our Stock Price Is Volatile

 

The market price of our common stock could be subject to significant fluctuation in response to various market factors and events. These market factors and events include variations in our sales and earnings results and any failure to meet market expectations; changes in ratings and earnings estimates by securities analysts; publicity regarding us, our competitors, the natural products industry generally; new statutes or regulations or changes in the interpretation of existing statutes or regulations affecting the natural products industry specifically; sales of substantial amounts of common stock in the public market or the perception that such sales could occur and other factors. In addition, the stock market in recent years has experienced broad price and volume fluctuations that often have been unrelated to the operating performance of particular companies. These market fluctuations also may adversely affect the market price of our common stock.

 

Future Economic Factors Could Cause Impairment of Goodwill

 

Our total assets included goodwill totaling approximately $659.6 million at September 28, 2008. In accordance with Statement of Financial Accounting Standards (“SFAS”) No. 142, “Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets”, goodwill is reviewed for impairment annually or more frequently if impairment indicators arise. We allocate goodwill to one reporting unit for goodwill impairment testing. As described in “Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments” of this Report, we continue discussions with the Staff of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance regarding the Company’s goodwill impairment testing and operation as a single operating segment. Our impairment reviews require extensive use of accounting judgment and financial estimates. Application of alternative assumptions and definitions, such as reviewing goodwill for impairment at a different organization level, could produce significantly different results. We may be required to recognize impairments of goodwill based on future economic factors such as unfavorable changes in the Company’s stock price and market capitalization, unfavorable changes in valuations of comparable companies, or unfavorable changes in estimated future discounted cash flows of the Company’s reporting unit. Impairment of goodwill could result in material charges that would adversely affect our results of operations and capitalization.

 

Future Events Could Result in Impairment of Our Long-Lived Assets

 

Our total assets included long-lived assets totaling approximately $1.9 billion at September 28, 2008. In accordance with SFAS No. 144, “Accounting for the Impairment or Disposal of Long-Lived Assets”, long-lived assets are evaluated for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of an asset may not be recoverable. Our impairment evaluations require use of financial estimates of future cash flows. Application of alternative assumptions could produce significantly different results. We may be required to recognize impairments of long-lived assets based on future economic factors such as unfavorable changes in estimated future undiscounted cash flows of an asset group. Long-lived asset impairments could result in material charges that would adversely affect our results of operations and capitalization.

 

Changes in the Number of Stock Option Exercises Could Impact Our Cash Flow

 

Our cash flow from the exercise of team member stock options may be adversely affected in the future by fluctuations in the market price of our common stock, changes in income tax law, and changes in the number of stock options we grant.

 

Capital Needed for Expansion and General Corporate Purposes May Not Be Available

 

The construction and opening or acquisition of new stores and the development of new production and distribution facilities, along with the remodeling and renovation of existing stores, require significant amounts of capital. In the past, our growth has been funded primarily through proceeds from public offerings, bank debt, private placements of debt, internally generated cash flow, and proceeds from stock option exercises. These and other sources of capital may not be available to us in the future or may be more expensive to obtain. In addition, restrictive covenants that may be imposed by our lenders may limit our ability to fund our growth. On November 5, 2008, we entered into an agreement with affiliates of Leonard Green & Partners, L.P. to issue and sell $425 million of newly-issued shares of preferred stock to enhance our liquidity position. The

 

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closing and funding of the transaction is subject to certain customary closing conditions, including the receipt of customary regulatory approvals. There can be no assurance that these approvals will be received. We cannot assure that we could raise any additional capital on similar terms, or at all, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

We Have Significant Indebtedness

 

We have significant debt and may incur additional debt in the future. A significant portion of our future cash flow from operating activities may be dedicated to the payment of interest and the repayment of principal on our indebtedness. We may not be able to refinance our debt in the future on terms acceptable to us, or at all. Our indebtedness could limit our ability to obtain additional financing for working capital, capital expenditures, debt service requirements, acquisitions or other purposes in the future. There is no guarantee that we will be able to meet our debt service obligations. If we are unable to generate sufficient cash flow to meet our debt service obligations, we may be required to take measures such as seeking additional financing in the debt or equity markets, refinancing or restructuring all of a portion of our indebtedness, selling selected assets or reducing or delaying planned capital or operating expenditures. If we fail to comply with our debt covenants we will be in default, in which case there can be no assurance that we would be able to cure the default, receive waivers from our lenders, amend the loan agreements or refinance the debt.

 

The Capital Markets are Currently Experiencing a Period of Dislocation and Instability.

 

We believe that the dramatic deflation of asset valuations due in large part to the collapse of the subprime lending market has caused a general disruption in the U.S. capital markets. This collapse is evidenced by a lack of liquidity in the debt capital markets, significant write-offs in the financial services sector, the re-pricing of credit risk in the broadly syndicated credit market and the failure of certain major financial institutions. Despite actions of the U.S. federal government, these events have contributed to worsening general economic conditions that are materially and adversely impacting the broader financial and credit markets and reducing the availability of debt and equity capital for the market as a whole. Reflecting the concern about the stability of the financial markets generally and the strength of counterparties, many lenders and institutional investors have reduced, and in some cases ceased to provide, funding to borrowers. The resulting lack of available credit, lack of confidence in the financial sector, increased volatility in the financial markets and reduced business activity could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and our ability to obtain and manage our liquidity.

 

We May Not Be Able to Adequately Protect Our Intellectual Property Rights

 

We rely on a combination of trademark, trade secret and copyright law and internal procedures and nondisclosure agreements to protect our intellectual property. There can be no assurance that our intellectual property rights can be successfully asserted in the future or will not be invalidated, circumvented or challenged. In addition, the laws of certain foreign countries in which our products may be produced or sold do not protect our intellectual property rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States. Failure to protect our proprietary information could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

Self-Insurance Plan Claims Could Materially Impact Our Results

 

The Company uses a combination of insurance and self-insurance plans to provide for the potential liabilities for workers’ compensation, general liability, property insurance, director and officers’ liability insurance, vehicle liability and employee health care benefits. Liabilities associated with the risks that are retained by the Company are estimated, in part, by considering historical claims experience, demographic factors, severity factors and other actuarial assumptions. Our results could be materially impacted by claims and other expenses related to such plans if future occurrences and claims differ from these assumptions and historical trends.

 

Changes in Accounting Standards Could Materially Impact Our Results

 

Generally accepted accounting principles and related accounting pronouncements, implementation guidelines, and interpretations for many aspects of our business, such as accounting for insurance and self-insurance, inventories, goodwill and intangible assets, store closures, leases, income taxes and share-based payments, are highly complex and involve subjective judgments. Changes in these rules or their interpretation could significantly change or add significant volatility to our reported earnings without a comparable underlying change in cash flow from operations.

 

Effective Tax Rate Changes and Results of Examinations by Taxing Authorities Could Materially Impact Our Results

 

Our future effective tax rates could be adversely affected by the earnings mix being lower than historical results in states or countries where we have lower statutory rates and higher than historical results in states or countries where we have higher statutory rates, by changes in the valuation of our deferred tax assets and liabilities, or by changes in tax laws or interpretations thereof. In addition, we are subject to periodic audits and examinations by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and other state and local taxing authorities. Our results could be materially impacted by the determinations and expenses related to these and other proceedings by the IRS and other state and local taxing authorities.

 

Disruptions in Our Information Systems Could Harm Our Ability to Run Our Business.

 

We rely extensively on information systems for point-of-sale processing in our stores, supply chain, financial reporting, human resources and various other processes and transactions. Our information systems are subject to damage or interruption from power outages, computer and telecommunications failures, computer viruses, security breaches, including breaches of our transaction processing or other systems that could result in the compromise of confidential customer data, catastrophic events, and usage errors by our team members. If our systems are breached, damaged or cease to function properly, we may have to make a significant investments to fix or replace them, suffer interruptions in our operations, face costly litigation, and our reputation with our customers may be harmed. Any material interruption in our computer operations may have a material adverse effect on our business or results of operations.

 

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Failure of Our Internal Control over Financial Reporting Could Materially Impact Our Business and Results

 

The Company’s management is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate internal control over financial reporting. An internal control system, no matter how well designed and operated, can provide only reasonable, not absolute, assurance that the objectives of the control system are met. Further, the design of a control system must reflect the fact that there are resource constraints, and the benefits of controls must be considered relative to their costs. Because of the inherent limitations in all internal control systems, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Any failure to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting could limit our ability to report our financial results accurately and timely or to detect and prevent fraud, and could expose us to litigation or adversely affect the market price of our common stock.

 

Item 1B.              Unresolved Staff Comments.

 

On February 15, 2008, the Company received a letter from the Staff of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance as part of its review of the Company’s Form 10-K filed on November 29, 2007. The Company responded to that letter, which has been followed by a series of new letters and comments from the Staff and Company responses. Many of the Staff’s comments have been resolved. Following are three of the remaining unresolved comments that have evolved since the Company received the initial comment letter from the Staff in February 2008 or represent new comments from the Staff received as recently as August 2008.

 

One comment relates to the Company’s testing for goodwill impairment under SFAS No. 142, “Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets.” The Company tests for goodwill impairment on a company-wide basis, as a single reporting unit. Based on the results of its impairment testing, the Company determined that there was no impairment of goodwill during fiscal year 2008. Application of alternative assumptions and definitions, such as reviewing goodwill for impairment at a different organizational level, could produce significantly different results.

 

Another comment relates to the Company’s determination that it has a single operating segment, and that its 11 geographic regions are not separate operating segments requiring additional segment-level financial disclosure. The Company made this determination in accordance with SFAS No. 131, “Disclosures about Segments of an Enterprise and Related Information.”

 

A third comment relates to the categorization of products in connection with disclosure of the amount or percentage of total revenue contributed by each class of similar products as required by Item 101(c)(1)(I) of Regulation S-K.

 

The Company will continue to work with the Staff to resolve outstanding comments.

 

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Item 2.           Properties.

 

As of September 28, 2008, we operated 275 stores: 264 stores in 38 U.S. states and the District of Columbia; six stores in Canada; and five stores in the United Kingdom. This includes 55 stores acquired from Wild Oats Markets, Inc. on August 28, 2007: 52 stores in 20 U.S. states and three stores in Canada. We own 10 stores, three distribution facilities and land for one store in development, including the adjacent property. We also own a store and a building on leased land, which is leased to third parties, and have five stores in development on leased land. All other stores, distribution centers, bakehouses and administrative facilities are leased, with expiration dates ranging from one to 35 years. We have options to renew most of our leases in five-year increments with renewal periods ranging from five to 50 years. In addition, as of September 28, 2008, we had 36 leased properties that are not being utilized in current operations, of which 30 are related to Wild Oats, with expiration dates ranging from one to 16 years. We are actively negotiating to sublease or terminate leases related to these locations.

 

The following table shows the number of our stores by state, the District of Columbia, Canada and the United Kingdom as of September 28, 2008:

 

 

 

Number

 

 

 

Number

 

 

 

Number

Location

 

of Stores

 

Location

 

of Stores

 

Location

 

of Stores

Alabama

 

1

 

Kentucky

 

2

 

Ohio

 

6

Arkansas

 

1

 

Louisiana

 

3

 

Oklahoma

 

1

Arizona

 

7

 

Maine

 

1

 

Oregon

 

6

California

 

51

 

Maryland

 

7

 

Pennsylvania

 

7

Canada

 

6

 

Massachusetts

 

19

 

Rhode Island

 

3

Colorado

 

18

 

Michigan

 

5

 

South Carolina

 

2

Connecticut

 

5

 

Minnesota

 

2

 

Tennessee

 

3

District of Columbia

 

3

 

Missouri

 

3

 

Texas

 

14

Florida

 

14

 

Nebraska

 

1

 

United Kingdom

 

5

Georgia

 

7

 

Nevada

 

4

 

Utah

 

4

Hawaii

 

1

 

New Jersey

 

9

 

Virginia

 

9

Illinois

 

16

 

New Mexico

 

5

 

Washington

 

5

Indiana

 

2

 

New York

 

8

 

Wisconsin

 

2

Kansas

 

2

 

North Carolina

 

5

 

 

 

 

 

Item 3.           Legal Proceedings.

 

From time to time we are a party to legal proceedings including matters involving personnel and employment issues, personal injury, intellectual property, real estate and other proceedings arising in the ordinary course of business. The Company has established loss provisions for matters in which losses are probable and the amount of loss can be reasonably estimated. The Company does not believe that any of these proceedings arising in the ordinary course of business, either alone or in the aggregate, will have a material adverse effect on the Company’s results of operations, cash flows or financial condition.

 

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has resumed its administrative action challenging the Company’s August 28, 2007 acquisition of Wild Oats Markets. On July 29, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the August 16, 2007 decision of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia which had denied the FTC’s motion for a preliminary injunction against the acquisition of Wild Oats Markets by Whole Foods Market, and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with the appellate decision. On the same day, the Court of Appeals issued an Order directing the Clerk of the Court of Appeals to withhold issuance of the mandate in the case until seven days after disposition of any timely petition for rehearing or petition for rehearing en banc. On August 26, 2008, Whole Foods Market filed a petition for a rehearing en banc with the Court of Appeals, to which the Court of Appeals ordered the FTC to respond. The FTC opposed the petition. Subsequent to year end, on October 6, 2008, Whole Foods Market filed a motion for leave to file a reply to the FTC’s opposition to the petition for rehearing en banc, which motion the FTC also opposed. On November 21, 2008 the Court of Appeals denied Whole Foods Market’s petition for a rehearing en banc, amended its earlier opinion and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings. On remand the FTC may renew its motion for some preliminary injunctive relief pending resolution of the administrative action.

 

On August 8, 2008, the FTC issued an Order rescinding the stay of its administrative proceeding against Whole Foods Market. The FTC had previously filed a complaint commencing its administrative proceeding on June 28, 2007 but had stayed the proceeding on its own motion pending resolution of the federal court proceedings related to the merger. On September 8, 2008, the FTC issued an Amended Compliant in its administrative proceedings changing the relevant geographic markets and changing the notice of contemplated relief indicating that, should the FTC prevail in its

 

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administrative proceeding, it would seek relief against Whole Foods Market, which could include (i) an order preventing Whole Foods from consolidating any Wild Oats stores into the Whole Foods system to the extent such consolidation has not occurred at the time of the Commission’s decision; (ii) an order preventing Whole Foods from selling or disposing of any owned or leased property that had been used as a Wild Oats store in any geographic market, or a Whole Foods store in any relevant geographic market; (iii) an order preventing Whole Foods from discontinuing the use of the Wild Oats name at any store being operated as Wild Oats at the time of the Commission’s decision; (iv) re-establishment of Wild Oats stores, with Whole Foods stores added as necessary, along with any associated or necessary assets in a manner that creates a group or system of stores that may be available for divestiture, including, but not limited to, re-opening closed Wild Oats stores, re-naming Wild Oats stores that had been changed to the Whole Foods name, reversing any consolidation of Wild Oats stores into the Whole Foods system and re-establishing the Wild Oats system, and re-establishing Wild Oats’ distribution arrangements, private label products and supplier relationships; (v) the divestiture of Wild Oats stores, and Whole Foods stores, and any other associated or necessary assets, including the Wild Oats name, distribution systems or assets, and supplier relationships, in a manner that restores Wild Oats as a viable, independent competitor in the relevant markets, with the ability to offer such services as Wild Oats had offered prior to its acquisition by Whole Foods; (vi) maintenance of the Wild Oats stores pending divestiture, including operating the stores in the ordinary course and maintaining the inventory of the stores, the hours of operation of the stores and of each department in the stores; (vii) appointment of a monitor, or a divestiture trustee, to assure that the Wild Oats, Whole Foods, and related assets are re-established and divested within the time set forth in the Commission’s decision; (viii) a requirement that, for a period of time, Whole Foods provide prior notice to the Commission of acquisitions, mergers, consolidations, or any other combinations of its operations with any other company providing the operation of premium and natural organic supermarkets; (ix) a requirement for Whole Foods to file periodic compliance reports with the Commission; and (x) any other relief appropriate to correct or remedy the anticompetitive effects of the transaction or to restore Wild Oats as a viable, independent competitor in the relevant markets.

 

On September 10, 2008, the FTC issued the Scheduling Order for this matter. The trial is scheduled to commence on February 16, 2009 and will take no more than thirty full trial days. Subsequent to year end, on October 20, 2008, the FTC designated Acting Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell as the Administrative Law Judge for this matter.

 

Subsequent to year end, on October 27, 2008, Whole Foods Market was served with the complaint in Kottaras v. Whole Foods Market, Inc., a putative class action filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking treble damages, equitable, injunctive, and declaratory relief and alleging that the acquisition and merger between Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats violates various provisions of the federal antitrust laws.

 

Whole Foods Market cannot at this time predict the likely outcome of these judicial and administrative proceedings or estimate the amount or range of loss or possible loss that may arise from them. Litigation is inherently unpredictable, and the outcome in any of these proceedings, individually or collectively, could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition or results of operations. Therefore, we could be subject to judgments or enter into settlements of claims which individually or collectively affect our operating results or cash flow in a particular period.

 

Item 4.           Submission of Matters to a Vote of Security Holders.

 

Not applicable.

 

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PART II

 

Item 5.    Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

 

Whole Foods Market’s common stock is traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol “WFMI.”

 

The Company was added to Standard & Poor’s S&P 500 index in December 2005.

 

The following sets forth the intra-day quarterly high and low sale prices of the Company’s common stock for fiscal years 2008 and 2007:

 

 

 

High

 

Low

 

2008

 

 

 

 

 

October 1, 2007 to January 20, 2008

 

$

53.65

 

$

34.37

 

January 21, 2008 to April 13, 2008

 

42.48

 

29.99

 

April 14, 2008 to July 6, 2008

 

36.03

 

22.63

 

July 7, 2008 to September 28, 2008

 

24.22

 

17.37

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2007

 

 

 

 

 

September 25, 2006 to January 14, 2007

 

$

66.25

 

$

45.27

 

January 15, 2007 to April 8, 2007

 

52.43

 

42.13

 

April 9, 2007 to July 1, 2007

 

48.06

 

37.96

 

July 2, 2007 to September 30, 2007

 

49.49

 

36.00

 

 

As of November 21, 2008, there were 1,635 holders of record of Whole Foods Market’s common stock, and the closing stock price was $8.19.

 

Following is a summary of dividends declared in fiscal years 2008 and 2007 (in thousands, except per share amounts):

 

Date of
Declaration

 

Dividend
per Share

 

Date of
Record

 

Date of
Payment

 

Total
Amount

 

Fiscal year 2008:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 20, 2007

 

$

0.20

 

January 11, 2008

 

January 22, 2008

 

$

27,901

 

March 10, 2008

 

0.20

 

April 11, 2008

 

April 22, 2008

 

28,041

 

June 11, 2008

 

0.20

 

July 11, 2008

 

July 22, 2008

 

28,057

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiscal year 2007:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 27, 2006

 

$

0.15

 

October 13, 2006

 

October 23, 2006

 

$

20,971

 

November 2, 2006

 

0.18

 

January 12, 2007

 

January 22, 2007

 

25,303

 

March 5, 2007

 

0.18

 

April 13, 2007

 

April 24, 2007

 

25,448

 

June 5, 2007

 

0.18

 

July 13, 2007

 

July 24, 2007

 

25,019

 

September 20, 2007

 

0.18

 

October 12, 2007

 

October 23, 2007

 

25,071

 

 

On August 5, 2008, the Company announced that its Board of Directors suspended the Company’s quarterly cash dividend to common shareholders for the foreseeable future.

 

On July 31, 2008, the Company’s Board of Directors approved a $100 million increase in the Company’s stock repurchase program, bringing the total authorization to $400 million through November 8, 2009 and the current remaining authorization to approximately $200 million. At September 30, 2007, the Company held in treasury approximately 4.5 million shares of common stock, totaling approximately $200 million. During the first quarter of fiscal year 2008, the Company retired all shares held in treasury. The specific timing and repurchase of future amounts will vary based on market conditions, securities law limitations and other factors and will be made using the Company’s available resources. The repurchase program may be suspended or discontinued at any time without prior notice.

 

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Table of Contents

 

The following table summarizes information about our Company’s equity compensation plans by type as of September 28, 2008 (in thousands, except per share amounts):

 

Plan Category

 

Options
Outstanding

 

Weighted
Average
Exercise Price

 

Options
Available
for Future
Issuance

 

Approved by security holders

 

17,430

 

$

48.64

 

4,537

 

Not approved by security holders

 

 

 

 

Total

 

17,430

 

$

48.64

 

4,537

 

 

On November 5, 2008, the Company announced an agreement to sell Series A Preferred Stock due 2020 to Green Equity Investors V, L.P., an affiliate of Leonard Green & Partners, L.P., for $425 million. At the time of the announcement, this equated to an ownership interest, assuming conversion of the preferred stock to common stock, in the Company of approximately 17%. The preferred stock has an 8% dividend, payable quarterly in cash or by increasing the liquidation preference, and is convertible under certain circumstances to common stock at an initial conversion price of $14.50 per share. The closing and funding of the transaction is subject to certain customary closing conditions, including the receipt of customary regulatory approvals. There can be no assurance that these approvals will be received.

 

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Table of Contents

 

Item 6.    Selected Financial Data.

 

Whole Foods Market, Inc.

Summary Financial Information

(In thousands, except per share amounts and operating data)

 

The following selected financial data are derived from the Company’s consolidated financial statements and should be read in conjunction with “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and “Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.”

 

 

 

 

Sept. 28,
2008

 

Sept. 30,
2007

 

Sept. 24,
2006

 

Sept. 25,
2005

 

Sept. 26,
2004

 

 

 

Consolidated Statements of Operations Data (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sales

 

$

7,953,912

 

$

6,591,773

 

$

5,607,376

 

$

4,701,289

 

$

3,864,950

 

 

 

Cost of goods sold and occupancy costs

 

5,247,207

 

4,295,170

 

3,647,734

 

3,052,184

 

2,523,816

 

 

 

Gross profit

 

2,706,705

 

2,296,603

 

1,959,642

 

1,649,105

 

1,341,134

 

 

 

Direct store expenses

 

2,107,940

 

1,711,229

 

1,421,968

 

1,223,473

 

986,040

 

 

 

General and administrative expenses

 

270,428

 

217,743

 

181,244

 

158,864

 

119,800

 

 

 

Pre-opening expenses

 

55,554

 

59,319

 

32,058

 

33,856

 

17,464

 

 

 

Relocation, store closure, and lease termination costs

 

36,545

 

10,861

 

5,363

 

3,179

 

1,184

 

 

 

Operating income

 

236,238

 

297,451

 

319,009

 

229,733

 

216,646

 

 

 

Interest expense

 

(36,416

)

(4,208

)

(32

)

(2,223

)

(7,249

)

 

 

Investment and other income

 

6,697

 

11,324

 

20,736

 

9,623

 

6,456

 

 

 

Income before income taxes

 

206,519

 

304,567

 

339,713

 

237,133

 

215,853

 

 

 

Provision for income taxes

 

91,995

 

121,827

 

135,885

 

100,782

 

86,341

 

 

 

Net income

 

$

114,524

 

$

182,740

 

$

203,828

 

$

136,351

 

$

129,512

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic earnings per share

 

$

0.82

 

$

1.30

 

$

1.46

 

$

1.05

 

$

1.06

 

 

 

Weighted average shares outstanding

 

139,886

 

140,088

 

139,328

 

130,090

 

122,648

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diluted earnings per share

 

$

0.82

 

$

1.29

 

$

1.41

 

$

0.99

 

$

0.99

 

 

 

Weighted average shares outstanding, diluted basis

 

140,011

 

141,836

 

145,082

 

139,950

 

135,454

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dividends declared per share

 

$

0.60

 

$

0.87

 

$

2.45

 

$

0.47

 

$

0.30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consolidated Balance Sheets Data

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net working capital

 

$

(43,571

)

$

(104,364

)

$

114,211

 

$

254,146

 

$

151,147

 

 

 

Total assets

 

3,380,736

 

3,213,128

 

2,042,996

 

1,889,296

 

1,521,006

 

 

 

Long-term debt (including current maturities)

 

929,170

 

760,868

 

8,655

 

18,864

 

170,743

 

 

 

Shareholders’ equity

 

1,506,024

 

1,458,804

 

1,404,143

 

1,365,676

 

949,638

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operating Data

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number of stores at end of fiscal year

 

275

 

276

 

186

 

175

 

163

 

 

 

Average store size (gross square footage)

 

36,000

 

34,000

 

34,000

 

33,000

 

32,000

 

 

 

Average weekly sales per store

 

$

570,000

 

$

617,000

 

$

593,000

 

$

537,000

 

$

482,000

 

 

 

Comparable store sales increase (2)

 

4.9

%

7.1

%

11.0

%

12.8

%

14.9

%

 

 

Identical store sales increase (2)

 

3.6

%

5.8

%

10.3

%

11.5

%

14.5

%

 

(1)

 

Fiscal years 2008, 2006, 2005 and 2004 were 52-week years and fiscal year 2007 was a 53-week year.

(2)

 

Sales of a store are deemed to be “comparable” commencing in the fifty-third full week after the store was opened or acquired. Identical store sales exclude sales for remodels with expansions of square footage greater than 20% and relocations. Stores closed for eight or more days are excluded from the comparable and identical store base in the first fiscal week of closure until re-opened for a full fiscal week.

 

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Item 7.    Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

 

General

 

Whole Foods Market, Inc. and its consolidated subsidiaries own and operate the largest chain of natural and organic foods supermarkets. Our Company mission is to promote vitality and well-being for all individuals by supplying the highest quality, most wholesome foods available. Through our growth, we have had a significant and positive impact on the natural and organic foods movement throughout the United States, helping lead the industry to nationwide acceptance. We opened our first store in Texas in 1980 and, as of September 28, 2008, we operated 275 stores: 264 stores in 38 U.S. states and the District of Columbia; six stores in Canada; and five stores in the United Kingdom. We have one operating segment, supermarkets emphasizing natural and organic foods.

 

Effective August 28, 2007, the Company completed the acquisition of Wild Oats Markets, Inc. (“Wild Oats”), in a cash tender offer of $18.50 per share, or approximately $565 million plus the assumption of approximately $148 million in existing debt. At the date of acquisition, Wild Oats had 109 stores in 23 states and British Columbia, Canada operating under four banners: Wild Oats Marketplace nationwide, Henry’s Farmers Market (“Henry’s”) in Southern California, Sun Harvest in Texas, and Capers Community Market in British Columbia. In connection with the acquisition of Wild Oats, the Company separately entered into an agreement to sell certain assets and liabilities, consisting primarily of fixed assets, inventories and operating leases, related to all 35 Henry’s and Sun Harvest stores and a related distribution center. This sale was completed effective September 30, 2007 and the Company received net proceeds totaling approximately $164 million in fiscal year 2008. As of September 28, 2008, the Company had closed 19 Wild Oats stores and had 55 continuing Wild Oats stores, of which 45 had been rebranded as Whole Foods Market stores. The Company currently intends to close one additional store and relocate an additional three stores as existing Whole Foods Market sites in development open through fiscal year 2010. The Company has made investments to raise the Wild Oats stores up to our high standards, including investments in repairs and maintenance of the stores, lower prices, an expanded perishables offering and increased labor. Wild Oats results of operations are included in our Consolidated Statements of Operations for the period beginning August 28, 2007 through September 30, 2007 and for the fiscal year ended September 28, 2008.

 

Our results of operations have been and may continue to be materially affected by the timing and number of new store openings. Stores typically open within 24 months after entering the store development pipeline. New stores generally become profitable during their first year of operation; although some new stores may incur operating losses for the first several years of operation.

 

Sales of a store are deemed to be comparable commencing in the fifty-third full week after the store was opened or acquired. Stores acquired from Wild Oats entered the comparable store sales base effective the fifty-third full week following the date of the merger. Identical store sales exclude sales from relocated stores and remodeled stores with expansions of square footage greater than 20% until the fifty-third full week after the store is relocated or remodeled to reduce the impact of square footage growth on the comparison. Stores closed for eight or more days are excluded from the comparable and identical store base from the first fiscal week of closure until re-opened for a full fiscal week.

 

The Company reports its results of operations on a 52- or 53-week fiscal year ending on the last Sunday in September. Fiscal years 2008 and 2006 were 52-week years and fiscal year 2007 was a 53-week year.

 

Overview

 

Whole Foods Market continues to experience a challenging retail environment caused by a number of ongoing factors including the general economic environment in the United States. Retail sales in the United States declined in September 2008; the third consecutive monthly decline and the first such consecutive three-month decline in more than a decade. For the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008, our comparable store sales increased 0.4% compared to an increase of 8.2% for the same period of the prior fiscal year, and identical store sales declined 0.5% compared to an increase of 6.0% for the same period of the prior fiscal year. For the first five weeks of the first quarter of fiscal year 2009, comparable store sales decreased 2.1% versus a 9.0% increase for the same period of the prior year, and identical store sales decreased 3.3% versus a 6.7% increase in the same period of the prior year. We believe our customers remain committed to Whole Foods Market, although the unrelenting negative economic news appears to be shifting buying behavior to making fewer trips and to making more value conscious decisions. For comparable stores, our transaction count declined approximately 1.5% and average basket size increased approximately 2% in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008.

 

The Whole Foods Market brand stands for the highest quality, and over the last several years we have worked hard to increase the value choices within our stores without sacrificing our standards. Our “The Whole Deal” program, launched in July 2008, has helped to highlight the values we offer within perishables. The program includes a quarterly in-store guide providing

 

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Table of Contents

 

specially priced product discounts, money-saving coupons and tips, as well as budget recipes. We believe that strengthening our value image throughout the store is the right strategy over the short and long term, and we are making positive strides in differentiating our product selection, with a major emphasis on expanding offerings under our own label, our control brands and exclusive branded products. Our SKU count for offerings under our own label increased 19% year over year to over 2,300. We currently have over 300 exclusive-branded products across the center store.

 

On July 29, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the August 16, 2007 decision of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia which had denied the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) motion for a preliminary injunction against the acquisition of Wild Oats Markets by Whole Foods Market, and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with the appellate decision. On the same day, the Court of Appeals issued an Order directing the Clerk of the Court of Appeals to withhold issuance of the mandate in the case until seven days after disposition of any timely petition for rehearing or petition for rehearing en banc. On August 26, 2008, Whole Foods Market filed a petition for a rehearing en banc with the Court of Appeals, to which the Court of Appeals ordered the FTC to respond.  The FTC opposed the petition.  On October 6, 2008, Whole Foods Market filed a motion for leave to file a reply to the FTC’s opposition to the petition for rehearing en banc, which motion the FTC also opposed. On November 21, 2008 the Court of Appeals denied Whole Foods Market’s petition for a rehearing en banc, amended its earlier opinion and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings.  On remand the FTC may renew its motion for some preliminary injunctive relief pending resolution of the administrative action.

 

On August 8, 2008, the FTC issued an Order rescinding the stay of its administrative proceeding against Whole Foods Market.  The FTC had previously filed a complaint commencing its administrative proceeding on June 28, 2007 but had stayed the proceeding on its own motion pending resolution of the federal court proceedings related to the merger. On September 8, 2008, the FTC issued an Amended Complaint in its administrative proceeding changing the relevant geographic markets involved and changing the notice of contemplated relief it would seek if it prevails in the administrative trial. On September 10, 2008, the FTC issued the Scheduling Order for this matter. The trial is scheduled to commence on February 16, 2009 and will take no more than thirty full trial days. On October 20, 2008, the FTC designated Acting Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell as the Administrative Law Judge for this matter. On October 27, 2008, Whole Foods Market was served with the complaint in Kottaras v. Whole Foods Market, Inc., a putative class action filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking treble damages, equitable, injunctive, and declaratory relief and alleging that the acquisition and merger between Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats violates various provisions of the federal antitrust laws.

 

Whole Foods Market cannot at this time predict the likely outcome of these judicial and administrative proceedings or estimate the amount or range of loss or possible loss that may arise from them. The Company had not accrued any loss related to the outcome of these proceedings as of September 28, 2008.

 

On November 5, 2008, the Company entered into an agreement to issue approximately 425,000 shares of Series A 8% Redeemable, Convertible Preferred Stock, $0.01 par value per share (“Series A Preferred Stock”) to Green Equity Investors V, L.P., an affiliate of Leonard Green & Partners, L.P., for $425 million. The Series A Preferred Stock has an 8% dividend, payable quarterly in cash or by increasing the liquidation preference, at the option of the Company, and will be convertible, under certain circumstances, to common stock at an initial conversion rate of $68.9655 per $1,000 of the liquidation preference, or an initial conversion price of $14.50 per common share. The closing and funding of the transaction is subject to certain customary closing conditions, including the receipt of customary regulatory approvals. There can be no assurance that these approvals will be received.

 

Fiscal Year 2008 Executive Summary

 

Sales for fiscal year 2008 totaled approximately $8.0 billion, an increase of approximately 20.7% over the prior year. Adjusted to reflect a 52-week period in fiscal year 2007, sales increased 23.6% over the prior fiscal year. The ongoing weakness in the economy and credit market turmoil continue to negatively impact consumer confidence and spending, and Whole Foods Market is not immune to the country’s economic issues. For the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008, comparable store sales increased 0.4% compared to an increase of 8.2% for the same period of the prior fiscal year, and identical store sales declined 0.5% compared to an increase of 6.0% for the same period of the prior fiscal year.

 

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Table of Contents

 

During the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008, the Company:

 

·                  increased store closure reserves for closed Wild Oats stores by a total of approximately $14.7 million, or 27%, to approximately $64.4 million as a result of increased estimated net lease obligations that were required due to the downturn in the real estate market and economy in general;

 

·                  recognized approximately $6.1 million in income tax expenses related to the repatriation of approximately $59.8 million in cash from its Canadian subsidiary during the fourth quarter;

 

·                  recorded approximately $5.5 million in costs related to 13 lease terminations for stores previously in development; and,

 

·                  recognized approximately $2.5 million in legal costs related to the FTC proceedings.

 

Net income for fiscal year 2008 totaled approximately $114.5 million, and diluted earnings per share totaled $0.82.

 

Our capital expenditures for fiscal year 2008 totaled approximately $522.0 million, of which approximately $357.5 million was for new store development and approximately $164.5 million was for remodels and other additions. We opened 20 new stores during fiscal year 2008 and we ended the fiscal year with 275 stores. The Company has reduced the number of stores expected to open in fiscal year 2009 to approximately 15, and capital expenditures for fiscal year 2009 are expected to be in the range of $400 million to $450 million.

 

At the end of fiscal year 2008, the Company had outstanding debt totaling approximately $929.2 million, including a $700 million term loan used to finance the Wild Oats acquisition, $195 million in borrowings on the Company’s revolving line of credit, approximately $19.0 million in capital lease obligations, an interest rate swap liability totaling approximately $12.5 million and approximately $2.7 million in convertible debentures.

 

The Company paid quarterly cash dividends totaling approximately $109.1 million during fiscal year 2008. During the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008, the Company’s Board of Directors suspended the quarterly cash dividend for the foreseeable future.

 

Results of Operations

 

The following table sets forth the statements of operations data of Whole Foods Market expressed as a percentage of total sales for the fiscal years indicated:

 

 

 

2008

 

2007

 

2006

 

Sales

 

100.0

%

100.0

%

100.0

%

Cost of goods sold and occupancy costs

 

66.0

 

65.2

 

65.1

 

Gross profit

 

34.0

 

34.8

 

34.9

 

Direct store expenses

 

26.5

 

26.0

 

25.4

 

General and administrative expenses

 

3.4

 

3.3

 

3.2

 

Pre-opening expenses

 

0.7

 

0.9

 

0.6

 

Relocation, store closure and lease termination costs

 

0.5

 

0.2

 

0.1

 

Operating income

 

3.0

 

4.5

 

5.7

 

Interest expense

 

(0.5

)

(0.1

)

 

Investment and other income

 

0.1

 

0.2

 

0.4

 

Income before income taxes

 

2.6

 

4.6

 

6.1

 

Provision for income taxes

 

1.2

 

1.8

 

2.4

 

Net income

 

1.4

%

2.8

%

3.6

%

 

Figures may not sum due to rounding.

 

Sales

 

Sales totaled approximately $7.95 billion, $6.59 billion and $5.61 billion in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively, representing increases of 20.7%, 17.6% and 19.3% over the previous fiscal years, respectively. Adjusted to reflect a 52-week period in fiscal year 2007, sales in fiscal years 2008 and 2007 increased 23.6% and 15.3% over the prior fiscal year, respectively. Sales for all fiscal years shown reflect increases due to new stores opened and acquired and comparable store sales increases. Comparable store sales increased approximately 4.9%, 7.1% and 11.0% in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. As of September 28, 2008, there were 261 locations in the comparable store base. The number of stores open or acquired 52-weeks or less equaled 20, 102 and 14 at the end of fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. The sales

 

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Table of Contents

 

increase contributed by stores open or acquired within 52-weeks or less totaled approximately $236.1 million, $421.8 million and $212.6 million for fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. Sales at Wild Oats stores totaled approximately $743.4 million and $122.1 million during fiscal years 2008 and 2007, respectively. Sales for fiscal year 2007 reflect five weeks of sales from Wild Oats stores. Identical store sales increased approximately 3.6%, 5.8% and 10.3% in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. Identical store sales in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006 exclude seven, six and two store relocations, respectively, and three, three and one remodels with major expansions, respectively. For the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008, comparable store sales increased 0.4% compared to an increase of 8.2% for the same period of the prior fiscal year, and identical store sales declined 0.5% compared to an increase of 6.0% for the same period of the prior fiscal year. The uncertain and rapidly changing current economic environment makes it highly difficult to forecast future results. Assuming no increase in comparable store sales combined with the expectation of opening 15 new stores, of which seven will be relocations, we estimate fiscal year 2009 sales would total approximately $8.3 billion.

 

Gross Profit

 

Gross profit consists of sales less cost of goods sold and occupancy costs plus contribution from non-retail distribution and food preparation operations. Gross profit totaled approximately $2.71 billion, $2.30 billion and $1.96 billion in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. Gross profit as a percentage of sales was 34.0%, 34.8% and 34.9% in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. Factors contributing to the decrease in gross profit as a percentage of sales in fiscal year 2008 compared to the prior fiscal years include higher utility costs and property taxes as a percentage of sales and product cost increases greater than the Company’s increases in average retail prices. Increases in product costs from our suppliers and increasing occupancy costs may continue in future periods, and to the extent those increases are not reflected in increased retail prices or increased retail prices are delayed, our gross profit will be adversely affected. Our gross profit may increase or decrease slightly depending on the mix of sales from new stores or the impact of weather or a host of other factors, including inflation. Relative to existing stores, gross profit margins tend to be lower for new stores and increase as stores mature, reflecting lower shrink as volumes increase, as well as increasing experience levels and operational efficiencies of the store teams. We have many buying initiatives in place that are benefiting our customers. Our strategy is to be competitively priced on a market-by-market basis on commodity-type products and on identical product brands in grocery; however, our perishables may be priced at a premium to reflect the higher quality, broader selection, and better customer service available in our produce, meat, seafood, bakery, specialty and prepared foods departments.

 

Direct Store Expenses

 

Direct store expenses totaled approximately $2.11 billion, $1.71 billion and $1.42 billion in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. Direct store expenses as a percentage of sales was approximately 26.5%, 26.0% and 25.4% in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. Direct store expenses as a percentage of sales tends to be higher for new stores and decrease as stores mature, reflecting increasing operational productivity of the store teams. Increased direct store expenses as a percentage of sales in fiscal year 2008 reflect higher depreciation costs as a percentage of sales.

 

General and Administrative Expenses

 

General and administrative expenses totaled approximately $270.4 million, $217.7 million and $181.2 million in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. General and administrative expenses as a percentage of sales were 3.4%, 3.3% and 3.2% in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. The Company currently expects general and administrative expenses in fiscal year 2009 to be approximately 3.1% of sales. This excludes approximately $15 million to $20 million related to the FTC proceedings that the Company currently expects to incur costs in fiscal year 2009, including approximately $8 million to $10 million in the first quarter and approximately $5 million to $7 million in the second quarter.

 

Pre-opening Expenses

 

Pre-opening expenses include rent expense incurred during construction of new stores and other costs related to new store openings, including costs associated with hiring and training personnel, supplies and other miscellaneous costs. Rent expense is generally incurred approximately nine months prior to a store’s opening date. Other pre-opening expenses are incurred primarily in the 30 days prior to a new store opening. The Company opened 20, 21 and 13 new store locations during fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. Pre-opening expenses totaled approximately $55.6 million, $59.3 million and $32.1 million in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. Pre-opening expenses as a percentage of sales were 0.7%, 0.9% and 0.6% in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively.

 

Relocation, Store Closure and Lease Termination Costs

 

Relocation costs consist of moving costs, estimated remaining lease payments, accelerated depreciation costs, related asset impairment, and other costs associated with replaced facilities. Store closure costs consist of estimated remaining net lease payments, accelerated depreciation costs, related asset impairment, and other costs associated with closed facilities. Lease termination costs consist of estimated remaining net lease payments for terminated leases and idle properties and associated asset impairments. The Company relocated or closed 21, five and three store locations during fiscal years 2008, 2007 and

 

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2006, respectively. Relocation, store closure and lease termination costs totaled approximately $36.5 million, $10.9 million and $5.4 million in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. Relocation, store closure and lease termination costs as a percentage of sales were 0.5%, 0.2% and 0.1% in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. Relocation, store closure and lease termination costs for fiscal year 2008 include charges recorded during the fourth quarter totaling approximately $14.7 million to increase store closure reserves for increased estimated net lease obligations for closed Wild Oats stores and approximately $5.5 million in costs related to 13 lease terminations for stores previously in development.

 

Interest Expense

 

Interest expense, net of amounts capitalized, was approximately $36.4 million, $4.2 million and $32,000 in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. The increase in net interest expense in fiscal year 2008 over the prior fiscal years includes interest expense on the $700 million term loan we entered into on August 28, 2007 to finance the acquisition of Wild Oats Markets. The Company had $195 million and $17 million outstanding on its revolving line of credit at September 28, 2008 and September 30, 2007, respectively. Company made the final principal payment of approximately $5.7 million to retire its senior notes on May 16, 2006. The Company expects interest expense, net of investment and other income, to range from approximately $35 million to $40 million in fiscal year 2009.

 

Investment and Other Income

 

Investment and other income includes investment gains and losses, interest income, rental income and other income totaling approximately $6.7 million, $11.3 million and $20.7 million in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. The decreases in investment and other income in fiscal years 2008 and 2007 primarily resulted from lower average investment balances. Investment and other income for fiscal year 2006 includes approximately $2.1 million of insurance proceeds related to Hurricane Katrina losses.

 

Income Taxes

 

Our effective tax rate on income was approximately 44.5% in fiscal year 2008 and approximately 40.0% in fiscal years 2007 and 2006. The increase in our effective tax rate for fiscal year 2008 resulted primarily from the repatriation of cash during the fourth quarter. The Company expects it annualized effective tax rate for fiscal year 2009 to be in the range of 41% to 42%.

 

Share-Based Payments

 

Share-based payment expense before income taxes recognized during fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006 was approximately $10.5 million, $13.2 million and $9.4 million, respectively. Share-based payment expense was included in the following line items on the Consolidated Statements of Operations for the periods indicated (in thousands):

 

 

 

2008

 

2007

 

2006

 

Cost of goods sold and occupancy costs

 

$

233

 

$

475

 

$

264

 

Direct store expenses

 

5,300

 

7,093

 

3,555

 

General and administrative expenses

 

4,972

 

5,607

 

5,613

 

Share-based payment expense before income taxes

 

10,505

 

13,175

 

9,432

 

Income tax benefit

 

(4,815

)

(4,114

)

(2,724

)

Net share-based payment expense

 

$

5,690

 

$

9,061

 

$

6,708

 

 

Liquidity and Capital Resources

 

We generated cash flows from operating activities of approximately $325.8 million, $399.3 million and $452.7 million in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. Cash flows from operating activities resulted primarily from our net income less non-cash expenses, income tax benefits that resulted from the exercise of team member stock options and changes in operating working capital.

 

Net cash used in investing activities was approximately $365.1 million, $895.7 million and $569.3 million for fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively.  For fiscal year 2007, net cash used in investing activities includes approximately $596.2 million paid for the purchase of Wild Oats. Our principal historical capital requirements have been the funding of the development or acquisition of new stores and acquisition of property and equipment for existing stores. The required cash investment for new stores varies depending on the size of the new store, geographic location, degree of work performed by the landlord and complexity of site development issues. Capital expenditures for fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006 totaled approximately $522.0 million, $529.7 million and $340.2 million, respectively, of which approximately $357.5 million, $389.3 million and $208.6 million, respectively, was for new store development and approximately $164.5 million, $140.3 million and $131.6 million, respectively, was for remodels and other property, plant and equipment expenditures. For fiscal year 2009, the Company expects capital expenditures to be in the range of approximately $400 million to $450 million.

 

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The following table provides information about the Company’s store development activities:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Properties

 

Total

 

 

 

Stores Opened

 

Stores Opened

 

Tendered

 

Leases Signed

 

 

 

During Fiscal

 

During Fiscal

 

as of

 

as of

 

 

 

Year 2007

 

Year 2008

 

November 5, 2008

 

November 5, 2008

 

Number of stores (including relocations)

 

21

 

20

 

11

 

66

 

Number of relocations

 

5

 

6

 

2

 

13

 

Number of lease acquisitions, ground leases and owned properties

 

4

 

4

 

6

 

8

 

New areas

 

3

 

3

 

2

 

8

 

Average store size (gross square feet)

 

56,500

 

53,000

 

46,400

 

49,100

 

As a percentage of existing store average size

 

167

%

146

%

128

%

135

%

Total square footage

 

1,185,800

 

1,060,700

 

510,900

 

3,293,900

 

As a percentage of existing square footage

 

13

%

11

%

5

%

33

%

Average tender period in months

 

8.8

 

9.7

 

 

 

 

 

Average pre-opening expense per store

 

$

2.6 million

(1)

$

2.5 million

 

 

 

 

 

Average pre-opening rent per store

 

$

0.9 million

(1)

$

1.1 million

 

 

 

 

 

Average development cost

 

$

15.1 million

(1)

$

15.8 million

 

 

 

 

 

Average development cost per square foot

 

$

278

(1)

$

297

(2)

 

 

 

 

(1)Average pre-opening and development costs exclude the Kensington store opened in London during fiscal year 2007.

(2)Average development costs exclude pre-opening and include estimated costs for stores not yet final.

 

The following table provides information about the Company’s historical store growth:

 

 

 

2008

 

2007

 

2006

 

Stores at beginning of fiscal year

 

276

 

186

 

175

 

Stores opened

 

20

 

21

 

13

 

Acquired stores

 

 

109

 

1

 

Divested stores

 

 

(35

)

 

Relocations and closures

 

(21

)

(5

)

(3

)

Stores at end of fiscal year

 

275

 

276

 

186

 

Remodels with major expansions(1)

 

1

 

2

 

1

 

Total gross square footage at end of fiscal year

 

9,895,000

 

9,312,000

 

6,377,000

 

(1) Defined as remodels with expansions of square footage greater than 20% completed during the fiscal year.

 

The following table provides additional information about the Company’s estimated store openings for fiscal years 2009 through 2012, including four stores that have opened during fiscal year 2009 through November 5, 2008, based on the Company’s current development pipeline. These openings reflect estimated tender dates which are subject to change and do not incorporate any potential new leases, terminations or square footage reductions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

Average

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Store

 

New Store

 

 

 

Total

 

 

 

New

 

Square

 

Square

 

 

 

Openings

 

Relocations

 

Areas

 

Footage

 

Footage

 

Stores opened through November 5, 2008

 

4

 

2

 

0

 

200,800

 

50,200

 

Fiscal year 2009 stores in development

 

11

 

5

 

1

 

621,500

 

56,500

 

Fiscal year 2010 stores in development

 

17

 

0

 

4

 

686,300

 

40,400

 

Fiscal year 2011 stores in development

 

19

 

4

 

1

 

884,000

 

46,500

 

Fiscal year 2012 stores in development

 

19

 

4

 

2

 

1,045,800

 

55,000

 

Total (1)

 

70

 

15

 

8

 

3,438,400

 

49,100

 

(1) Total square footage excludes three major expansions in development.

 

The Company expects total pre-opening and relocation costs for fiscal year 2009 to range from approximately $55 million to $60 million, of which approximately half relates to pre-opening rent for stores scheduled to open during fiscal year 2009 and beyond. These ranges are based on estimated tender dates which are subject to change.

 

Net cash provided by financing activities was approximately $69.8 million and $494.1 million in fiscal years 2008 and 2007, respectively. Net cash used in financing activities was approximately $189.7 million in fiscal year 2006. Proceeds from the

 

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exercise of stock options by team members are driven by a number of factors, including fluctuations in our stock price, and totaled approximately $18.0 million, $54.4 million, and $222.0 million in fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. The higher rate of stock option exercises in fiscal year 2006 resulted in part from the accelerated vesting of stock options on September 22, 2005.

 

On August 28, 2007, the Company entered into a $700 million, five-year term loan agreement to finance the acquisition of Wild Oats Markets. The loan, which is secured by a pledge of substantially all of the stock of our subsidiaries, bears interest at our option of the alternative base rate (“ABR”) plus an applicable margin or LIBOR plus an applicable margin based on the Company’s Moody’s and S&P rating. The interest period on LIBOR borrowings may range from one to six months at our option. The Company recorded approximately $3.4 million in debt origination fees for the term loan which are being amortized on a straight-line basis over the life of the loan. During the first quarter of fiscal year 2008, the Company entered into a three-year interest rate swap agreement with a notional amount of $490 million to effectively fix the interest rate on $490 million of the term loan at 4.718%, excluding the applicable margin and associated fees, to help manage exposure to interest rate fluctuations. The Company had accumulated net derivative losses of approximately $7.6 million, net of taxes, in other comprehensive income as of September 28, 2008, related to this cash flow hedge. Hedge ineffectiveness was not material during fiscal year 2008.

 

On August 28, 2007, we replaced our previous revolving credit facility with a new $250 million revolving line of credit that extends to 2012. During the third quarter of fiscal year 2008, the Company exercised the accordion feature available under the revolving credit facility to increase the aggregate commitment to $350 million and amend certain debt covenants contained in the agreement. All outstanding amounts borrowed under this agreement bear interest at our option of the ABR plus an applicable margin or LIBOR plus an applicable margin based on the Company’s Moody’s and S&P rating. Commitment fees on the undrawn amount, reduced by outstanding letters of credit, are payable under this agreement. At September 28, 2008 and September 30, 2007, the Company had $195 million and $17 million, respectively, drawn under this agreement. The amount available to the Company under the agreement was effectively reduced to $75.9 million by outstanding letters of credit totaling approximately $79.1 million and current borrowings at September 28, 2008. Subsequent to the end of the fiscal year, the Company repaid certain amounts outstanding under the line and increased letters of credit outstanding. As of November 21, 2008, the Company had $169 million outstanding and approximately $101.9 million available on its revolving credit facility.

 

The average variable interest rate on the $700 million term loan, inclusive of the applicable margin, was 5.715% during fiscal year 2008. The effective interest rate on the $490 million interest rate swap, inclusive of the applicable margin, was 5.780% during fiscal year 2008. The average variable interest rate on the amounts outstanding under the revolving line of credit agreement, inclusive of the applicable margin, was 5.259% during fiscal year 2008. A summary of applicable interest rates as of the end of fiscal years 2008 and 2007 follows:

 

 

 

2008

 

2007

 

Term loan agreement:

 

 

 

 

 

Variable interest rate, excluding applicable margin on non-swap portion of loan

 

2.469

%

5.179

%

Interest rate swap fixed interest rate, excluding applicable margin

 

4.718

%

n/a

 

Applicable margin – LIBOR, based on Moody’s and S&P ratings

 

1.375

%

1.000

%

Applicable margin – ABR, based on Moody’s and S&P ratings

 

0.375

%

n/a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Line of credit agreement:

 

 

 

 

 

Variable interest rate, excluding applicable margin

 

4.221

%

6.750

%

Applicable margin – LIBOR, based on Moody’s and S&P ratings

 

1.500

%

1.000

%

Applicable margin – ABR, based on Moody’s and S&P ratings

 

0.500

%

n/a

 

Commitment fee on undrawn amount

 

0.275

%

0.200

%

 

Interest paid during fiscal years 2008, 2007 and 2006 totaled approximately $36.2 million, $4.6 million and $0.6 million, respectively. The increase in interest paid in fiscal year 2008 is due to interest costs associated with the $700 million term loan agreement and interest costs associated with increased amounts outstanding under the revolving line of credit. Interest paid in fiscal year 2007 includes interest costs associated with the $700 million term loan agreement for the period from August 28, 2007 through September 30, 2007. The Company expects interest expense, net of investment and other income, to range from approximately $35 million to $40 million in fiscal year 2009.

 

The term loan and revolving credit agreements contain certain affirmative covenants including maintenance of certain financial ratios and certain negative covenants including limitations on additional indebtedness and payments as defined in the agreement. At September 28, 2008, we were in compliance with all applicable debt covenants.

 

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Subsequent to the end of fiscal year 2008, the margin applicable to our term loan increased to 0.75% and 1.75% on alternate base rate borrowings and LIBOR borrowings, respectively, due to downgrades of our corporate credit ratings. Additionally, the margins applicable to our revolving credit facility increased to 0.875% on alternate base rate borrowings and 1.875% on LIBOR borrowings. These applicable margins are currently the maximum allowed under these agreements. Currently the Company has a Moody’s rating of Ba3 and S&P rating of BB-. These rating changes also allow participating banks to obtain security interests in the Company’s personal property, inventories, and other assets to collateralize amounts outstanding under the term and revolving credit facilities. The participating banks have informed the Company of their intent to obtain such security interests. The collateral is subject to certain customary affirmative covenants including the insurance of inventory and equipment and certain negative covenants including limitations on subordination and sale of additional collateral outside of the normal course of business.

 

We have outstanding convertible subordinated debentures which had a carrying amount of approximately $2.7 million and $24.5 million at September 28, 2008 and September 30, 2007, respectively. The Company assumed convertible debentures totaling approximately $115.0 million in the Wild Oats acquisition, of which approximately $94.2 million was paid off during fiscal year 2007 and approximately $21.8 million, which included a related conversion premium totaling approximately $0.9 million, was paid off during fiscal year 2008. The remaining Whole Foods Market debentures have an effective yield to maturity of 5% and a scheduled maturity date of March 2, 2018. The debentures are convertible at the option of the holder, at any time on or prior to maturity, unless previously redeemed or otherwise purchased. The debentures may be redeemed at the option of the holder on March 2, 2013 at the issue price plus accrued original discount to the date of redemption. Subject to certain limitations, at our option, we may elect to pay this purchase price in cash, shares of common stock or any combination thereof. The debentures may also be redeemed in cash at the option of the holder if there is a change in control at the issue price plus accrued original discount to the date of redemption. The Company may redeem the debentures for cash, in whole or in part, at redemption prices equal to the issue price plus accrued original discount to the date of redemption. The debentures are subordinated in the right of payment to all existing and future senior indebtedness. The debentures have a conversion rate of 21.280 shares of Company common stock per $1,000 principal amount at maturity, or approximately 91,000 shares and 97,000 shares at September 28, 2008 and September 30, 2007, respectively. Approximately $154,000 and $5.8 million of the carrying amount of the debentures were voluntarily converted by holders to shares of Company common stock during fiscal years 2008 and 2007, respectively. The Company sent a notice to holders on November 6, 2008 that the Company intends to redeem remaining debentures on December 8, 2008 at a redemption price equal to the issue price plus accrued original issue discount totaling approximately $2.7 million.

 

On November 5, 2008, the Company entered into an agreement to issue approximately 425,000 shares of Series A 8% Redeemable, Convertible Preferred Stock, $0.01 par value per share (“Series A Preferred Stock”) to Green Equity Investors V, L.P., an affiliate of Leonard Green & Partners, L.P., for $425 million. The Series A Preferred Stock has an 8% dividend, payable quarterly in cash or by increasing the liquidation preference, at the option of the Company, and will be convertible, under certain circumstances, to common stock at an initial conversion rate of $68.9655 per $1,000 of the liquidation preference, or an initial conversion price of $14.50 per common share.  After three years, the dividend will be reduced to: (i) 6% if the common stock closes at or above $17.75 per share for at least 20 consecutive trading days, or (ii) 4% if the common stock closes at or above $23.13 per share for at least 20 consecutive trading days.  The Company may redeem the Series A Preferred Stock after five years at a premium of 4%, declining ratably to par by the eighth year. Additionally, at any time, the Company may, upon 30 days notice, redeem the Series A Preferred Stock if the common stock closes at or above $28.50 per share for at least 20 consecutive trading days.  The Company also has the option to convert the Series A Preferred Stock into subordinated convertible notes having economic terms similar to the preferred stock under certain circumstances. The closing and funding of the transaction is subject to certain customary closing conditions, including the receipt of customary regulatory approvals. There can be no assurance that these approvals will be received.

 

The Company is committed under certain capital leases for rental of certain equipment, buildings and land. These leases expire or become subject to renewal clauses at various dates through 2029. Capital leases totaling approximately $19.1 million were assumed with the acquisition of Wild Oats Markets.

 

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The following table shows payments due by period on contractual obligations as of September 28, 2008 (in thousands):

 

 

 

 

 

Less than 1

 

1-3

 

3-5

 

More than 5

 

 

 

Total

 

Year

 

Years

 

Years

 

Years

 

Long term debt obligations

 

$

897,698

 

$

 

$

 

$

897,698

 

$

 

Estimated interest on long term debt obligations

 

126,956

 

40,591

 

64,010

 

22,355

 

 

Capital lease obligations (including interest)

 

41,125

 

2,089

 

4,179

 

4,179

 

30,678

 

Operating lease obligations(1)

 

6,017,763

 

261,467

 

627,483

 

641,428

 

4,487,385

 

Total

 

$

7,083,542

 

$

304,147

 

$

695,672

 

$

1,565,660

 

$

4,518,063

 

(1)Amounts exclude taxes, insurance and other related expense.

 

The Company adopted Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) Interpretation No. 48, “Accounting for Uncertainty in Income Taxes, an interpretation of FASB Statement No. 109” (“FIN 48”) on October 1, 2007, the first day of fiscal year 2008. The amount of gross unrecognized tax benefits and related interest and penalties at September 28, 2008 was approximately $26.8 million.  These amounts have been excluded from the contractual obligations table because a reasonably reliable estimate of the period of cash settlement with the respective taxing authorities cannot be determined due to the high degree of uncertainty regarding the timing of future cash outflows associated with these liabilities.

 

We periodically make other commitments and become subject to other contractual obligations that we believe to be routine in nature and incidental to the operation of the business. Management believes that such routine commitments and contractual obligations do not have a material impact on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

Following is a summary of dividends declared in fiscal years 2008 and 2007 (in thousands, except per share amounts):

 

Date of

 

Dividend

 

Date of

 

Date of

 

Total

 

Declaration

 

per Share

 

Record

 

Payment

 

Amount

 

Fiscal year 2008:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 20, 2007

 

$

0.20

 

January 11, 2008

 

January 22, 2008

 

$

27,901

 

March 10, 2008

 

0.20

 

April 11, 2008

 

April 22, 2008

 

28,041

 

June 11, 2008

 

0.20

 

July 11, 2008

 

July 22, 2008

 

28,057

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiscal year 2007:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 27, 2006

 

$

0.15

 

October 13, 2006

 

October 23, 2006

 

$

20,971

 

November 2, 2006

 

0.18

 

January 12, 2007

 

January 22, 2007

 

25,303

 

March 5, 2007

 

0.18

 

April 13, 2007

 

April 24, 2007

 

25,448

 

June 5, 2007

 

0.18

 

July 13, 2007

 

July 24, 2007

 

25,019

 

September 20, 2007

 

0.18

 

October 12, 2007

 

October 23, 2007

 

25,071

 

 

During the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008, the Company’s Board of Directors suspended the quarterly cash dividend for the foreseeable future.

 

On July 31, 2008, the Company’s Board of Directors approved a $100 million increase in the Company’s stock repurchase program, bringing the total authorization to $400 million through November 8, 2009 and the current remaining authorization to approximately $200 million. At September 30, 2007, the Company held in treasury approximately 4.5 million shares of common stock.  The average price per share paid for shares held in treasury at September 30, 2007 was $43.98, for a total of approximately $200 million. During the first quarter of fiscal year 2008, the Company retired all shares held in treasury. The specific timing and repurchase of future amounts will vary based on market conditions, securities law limitations and other factors and will be made using the Company’s available resources. The repurchase program may be suspended or discontinued at any time without prior notice.

 

Our principal historical sources of liquidity have been cash generated by operations, available cash and cash equivalents, short-term investments and amounts available under our revolving line of credit. There can be no assurance, however, that the Company will continue to generate cash flows at or above current levels or that our revolving line of credit and other sources of capital will be available to us in the future. On November 5, 2008, the Company announced an agreement to sell Series A Preferred Stock for $425 million. We believe this investment, combined with cash generated by operations, will give us the financial flexibility to manage through the currently difficult economic times while continuing to prudently invest in our long-term growth. Absent any significant change in market condition, we expect planned expansion and other anticipated working capital and capital expenditure requirements for the next twelve months will be funded by these sources.

 

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Table of Contents

 

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements

 

Our off-balance sheet arrangements at September 28, 2008 consist of operating leases disclosed in the above contractual obligations table and the undrawn portion of our revolving credit facility discussed in Note 8 to the consolidated financial statements, “Long-Term Debt,” in “Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.” We have no other off-balance sheet arrangements that have had, or are reasonably likely to have, a material current or future effect on our consolidated financial statements or financial condition.

 

Critical Accounting Policies

 

The preparation of our financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles requires us to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenues, expenses and related disclosures of contingent assets and liabilities. Actual amounts may differ from these estimates. We base our estimates on historical experience and on various other assumptions and factors that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances. On an ongoing basis, we evaluate the continued appropriateness of our accounting policies and resulting estimates to make adjustments we consider appropriate under the facts and circumstances.

 

We have chosen accounting policies that we believe are appropriate to report accurately and fairly our operating results and financial position, and we apply those accounting policies in a consistent manner. Our significant accounting policies are summarized in Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements in “Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.” We believe that the following accounting policies are the most critical in the preparation of our financial statements because they involve the most difficult, subjective or complex judgments about the effect of matters that are inherently uncertain.

 

Insurance and Self-Insurance Liabilities

 

The Company uses a combination of insurance and self-insurance plans to provide for the potential liabilities for workers’ compensation, general liability, property insurance, director and officers’ liability insurance, vehicle liability and employee health care benefits. Liabilities associated with the risks that are retained by the Company are estimated, in part, by considering historical claims experience, demographic factors, severity factors and other actuarial assumptions. While we believe that our assumptions are appropriate, the estimated accruals for these liabilities could be significantly affected if future occurrences and claims differ from these assumptions and historical trends.

 

We have not made any material changes in the accounting methodology used to establish our insurance and self-insured liabilities during the past three fiscal years.

 

Because of the significance of the judgments and estimation processes, it is likely that materially different amounts could be recorded if we used different assumptions or if the underlying circumstances were to change. A 10% change in our insurance and self-insured liabilities at September 28, 2008, would have affected net income by approximately $5.1 million for fiscal year 2008.

 

Reserves for Closed Properties

 

The Company maintains reserves for retail stores and other properties that are no longer being utilized in current operations. The Company provides for closed property operating lease liabilities using a discount rate to calculate the present value of the remaining noncancelable lease payments and lease termination fees after the closing date, net of estimated subtenant income. The closed property lease liabilities are expected to be paid over the remaining lease terms, which generally range from one to 16 years. The Company estimates subtenant income and future cash flows based on the Company’s experience and knowledge of the area in which the closed property is located, the Company’s previous efforts to dispose of similar assets, existing economic conditions and when necessary utilizes local real estate brokers.

 

Adjustments to closed property reserves primarily relate to changes in estimated subtenant income or actual exit costs differing from original estimates. Adjustments are made for changes in estimates in the period in which the changes become known.

 

Because of the significance of the judgments and estimation processes, it is likely that materially different amounts could be recorded if we used different assumptions or if the underlying circumstances were to change. A 10% change in our closed property reserves at September 28, 2008, would have affected net income by approximately $4.0 million for fiscal year 2008.

 

Inventory Valuation

 

We value our inventories at the lower of cost or market. Cost was determined using the last-in, first-out (“LIFO”) method for approximately 94.0% and 81.7% of inventories at September 28, 2008 and September 30, 2007, respectively. Under the LIFO method, the cost assigned to items sold is based on the cost of the most recent items purchased. As a result, the costs of the first items purchased remain in inventory and are used to value ending inventory. The excess of estimated current costs

 

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Table of Contents

 

over LIFO carrying value, or LIFO reserve, was approximately $32.7 million and $20.0 million at September 28, 2008 and September 30, 2007, respectively.  Costs for remaining inventories are determined by the first-in, first-out (“FIFO”) method. Cost was determined using the retail method and the item cost method for inventories in fiscal years 2008 and 2007. Under the retail method, the valuation of inventories at cost and the resulting gross margins are determined by counting each item in inventory, then applying a cost-to-retail ratio for various groupings of similar items to the retail value of inventories. Inherent in the retail inventory method calculations are certain management judgments and estimates which could impact the ending inventory valuation at cost as well as the resulting gross margins. The item cost method involves counting each item in inventory, assigning costs to each of these items based on the actual purchase costs (net of vendor allowances) of each item and recording the actual cost of items sold. The item cost method of accounting enables management to more precisely manage inventory and purchasing levels when compared to the retail method of accounting.

 

Our cost-to-retail ratios contain uncertainties because the calculation requires management to make assumptions and to apply judgment regarding inventory mix, inventory spoilage and inventory shrink. Because of the significance of the judgments and estimation processes, it is likely that materially different amounts could be recorded if we used different assumptions or if the underlying circumstances were to change. A 10% difference in our cost-to-retail ratios at September 28, 2008, would have affected net income by approximately $3.4 million for fiscal year 2008.

 

Goodwill and Intangible Assets

 

Goodwill consists of the excess of cost of acquired enterprises over the sum of the amounts assigned to identifiable assets acquired less liabilities assumed. Goodwill is reviewed for impairment annually at the beginning of the Company’s fourth fiscal quarter, or more frequently if impairment indicators arise, on a reporting unit level. We allocate goodwill to one reporting unit for goodwill impairment testing. We determine fair value utilizing both a market value method and discounted projected future cash flows compared to our carrying value for the purpose of identifying impairment. Our annual impairment review requires extensive use of accounting judgment and financial estimates. Application of alternative assumptions and definitions, such as reviewing goodwill for impairment at a different organizational level, could produce significantly different results. Because of the significance of the judgments and estimation processes, it is likely that materially different amounts could be recorded if we used different assumptions or if the underlying circumstances were to change.

 

Impairment of Long-Lived Assets and Long-Lived Assets to be Disposed of

 

We evaluate long-lived assets for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of an asset may not be recoverable. Recoverability of assets to be held and used is measured by a comparison of the carrying amount of an asset to future undiscounted cash flows expected to be generated by the asset. If such assets are considered to be impaired, the impairment to be recognized is measured by the amount by which the carrying amount of the assets exceeds the fair value of the assets. Assets to be disposed of are reported at the lower of the carrying amount or fair value less costs to sell. Application of alternative assumptions, such as changes in estimate of future cash flows, could produce significantly different results. Because of the significant of the judgments and estimation processes, it is likely that materially different amounts could be recorded if we used different assumptions of if the underlying circumstances were to change.

 

Income Taxes

 

We recognize deferred income tax assets and liabilities by applying statutory tax rates in effect at the balance sheet date to differences between the book basis and the tax basis of assets and liabilities. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are measured using enacted tax rates expected to apply to taxable income in the years in which those temporary differences are expected to reverse. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are adjusted to reflect changes in tax laws or rates in the period that includes the enactment date. Significant accounting judgment is required in determining the provision for income taxes and related accruals, deferred tax assets and liabilities. In the ordinary course of business, there are transactions and calculations where the ultimate tax outcome is uncertain. In addition, we are subject to periodic audits and examinations by the IRS and other state and local taxing authorities. Although we believe that our estimates are reasonable, actual results could differ from these estimates.

 

On October 1, 2007, the Company adopted FIN 48, which clarifies the accounting for uncertainty in income tax positions recognized in the financial statements in accordance with Statement of Financial Accounting Standard (“SFAS”) No. 109. Under FIN 48, the Company may recognize the tax benefit from an uncertain tax position only if it is more likely than not that the tax position will be sustained on examination by the taxing authorities, based on the technical merits of the position. The tax benefits recognized in the financial statements from such a position should be measured based on the largest benefit that has a greater than 50% likelihood of being realized upon ultimate settlement. FIN 48 also provides guidance on measurement, classification, interest and penalties associated with tax positions, and income tax disclosures.

 

To the extent we prevail in matters for which reserves have been established, or are required to pay amounts in excess of our reserves, our effective income tax rate in a given financial statement period could be materially affected. An unfavorable tax

 

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settlement would require use of our cash and would result in an increase in our effective income tax rate in the period of resolution. A favorable tax settlement would be recognized as a reduction in our effective income tax rate in the period of resolution.

 

Share-Based Payments

 

The Company maintains several share based incentive plans. We historically granted options to purchase common stock under our 1992 Stock Option Plans, as amended.  In the 2007 annual shareholders’ meeting, our shareholders approved a new plan, the Whole Foods Market 2007 Stock Incentive Plan. Options are granted pursuant to this plan. Under both plans, options are granted at an option price equal to the market value of the stock at the grant date and are generally exercisable ratably over a four-year period beginning one year from grant date and have a five-year term. The grant date is established once the Company’s Board of Directors approves the grant and all key terms have been determined. The exercise prices of our stock option grants are the closing price on the grant date. Stock option grant terms and conditions are communicated to team members within a relatively short period of time. Our Company generally approves one primary stock option grant annually, occurring during a trading window.

 

Our Company offers a team member stock purchase plan to all full-time team members with a minimum of 400 hours of service. Participating team members may purchase our common stock through payroll deductions. At our 2007 annual meeting, shareholders approved a new Team Member Stock Purchase Plan (“TMSPP”) which became effective on April 1, 2007. The TMSPP replaces all previous stock purchase plans and provides for a 5% discount on the shares purchase date market value which meets the “Safe Harbor” provisions of SFAS No. 123R, “Share-Based Payment,” as amended, and therefore is non-compensatory. As a result, no future compensation expense will be recognized for our employee stock purchase plan. Under the previous plans, participating team members could elect to purchase unrestricted shares at 100% of market value or restricted shares at 85% of market value on the purchase date.

 

Effective the beginning of the first quarter of fiscal year 2006, the Company adopted the provisions of SFAS No. 123R using the modified prospective transition method. Under this method, prior periods were not restated. The Company uses the Black-Scholes multiple option pricing model which requires extensive use of accounting judgment and financial estimates, including estimates of the expected term team members will retain their vested stock options before exercising them, the estimated volatility of the Company’s common stock price over the expected term, and the number of options that will be forfeited prior to the completion of their vesting requirements. The related share-based payments expense is recognized on a straight-line basis over the vesting period. Application of alternative assumptions could produce significantly different estimates of the fair value of share-based payments expense and consequently, the related amounts recognized in the Consolidated Statements of Operations. The provisions of SFAS No. 123R apply to new stock options and stock options outstanding, but not yet vested, on the effective date.

 

SFAS No. 123R requires the Company to value unvested stock options granted prior to its adoption of SFAS No. 123 under the fair value method and expense these amounts in the income statement over the stock option’s remaining vesting period. The Company intends to keep its broad-based stock option program in place, but also intends to limit the number of shares granted in any one year so that annual earnings per share dilution from share-based payments expense will not exceed 10%. SFAS No. 123R requires the Company to reflect the tax savings resulting from tax deductions in excess of expense reflected in its financial statements as a financing cash flow.

 

We do not believe there is a reasonable likelihood that there will be a material change in the future estimates or assumptions we use to determine share-based payments expense. However, if actual results are not consistent with our estimates or assumptions, we may be exposed to changes in share-based payments expense that could be material.

 

Because of the significance of the judgments and estimation processes, it is likely that materially different amounts could be recorded if we used different assumptions or if the underlying circumstances were to change. A 10% change in our share-based payments expense would have affected net income by approximately $0.6 million for fiscal year 2008.

 

Recent Accounting Pronouncements

 

In September 2006, the FASB issued SFAS No. 157, “Fair Value Measurements,” as amended. SFAS No. 157 defines fair value, establishes a framework for measuring fair value, and requires additional disclosures about fair value measurements. SFAS No. 157 applies to fair value measurements that are already required or permitted by other accounting standards, except for measurements of share-based payments and measurements that are similar to, but not intended to be, fair value and does not change existing guidance as to whether or not an instrument is carried at fair value. SFAS No. 157 is amended by FSP No. FAS 157-1, “Application of FASB Statement No. 157 to FASB Statement No. 13 and Other Accounting Pronouncements That Address Fair Value Measurements for Purposes of Lease Classification or Measurement under Statement 13,” which excludes from the scope of this provision arrangements accounted for under SFAS No. 13, “Accounting for Leases.” The

 

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statement is further amended by FSP No. FAS 157-3, “Determining the Fair Value of a Financial Asset When the Market for That Asset Is Not Active,” which clarifies the application of SFAS No. 157 in a market that is not active and provides an example to illustrate key considerations in determining the fair value of a financial asset when the market for that financial asset is not active. The provisions of SFAS No. 157 are effective for the specified fair value measures of financial assets and liabilities for financial statements issued for fiscal years beginning after November 15, 2007 and interim periods within those fiscal years for items within scope. SFAS No. 157 is effective for the Company’s first quarter of fiscal year ending September 27, 2009. The company does not expect that the adoption of SFAS No. 157 will have an impact on our consolidated financial statements.  The provisions of FSP No. FAS 157-2, “Effective Date of FASB Statement No. 157,” are effective for the specified fair value measures of nonfinancial assets and liabilities for financial statements issued for fiscal years beginning after November 15, 2008 and interim periods within those fiscal years for items within scope. FSP No. FAS 157-2 is effective for the Company’s first quarter of fiscal year ending September 26, 2010. We are currently evaluating the impact, if any, that the adoption of SFAS No. 157 will have on our consolidated financial statements.

 

In February 2007, the FASB issued SFAS No. 159, “The Fair Value Option for Financial Assets and Financial Liabilities, including an amendment of FASB Statement No. 115.” SFAS No. 159 permits entities to choose to measure many financial instruments and certain other items at fair value. SFAS No. 159 applies to all entities that elect the fair value option. However, the amendment to SFAS No. 115 “Accounting for Certain Investments in Debt and Equity Securities” applies to all entities with available-for-sale and trading securities. The provisions of SFAS No. 159 are effective for fiscal years beginning after November 15, 2007. SFAS No. 159 is effective for the Company’s fiscal year ending September 27, 2009. We are currently evaluating the impact, if any, that the adoption of SFAS No. 159 will have on our consolidated financial statements.

 

In December 2007, the FASB issued SFAS No. 141R, “Business Combinations,” which replaces SFAS No. 141, “Business Combinations,” and applies to all transactions or other events in which an entity obtains control of one or more businesses, including those sometimes referred to as “true mergers” or “mergers of equals” and combinations achieved without the transfer of consideration. SFAS No. 141R establishes principles and requirements for how the acquirer recognizes and measures identifiable assets acquired, liabilities assumed, any noncontrolling interest and goodwill acquired. The Statement also provides for disclosures to enable users of the financial statements to evaluate the nature and financial effects of the business combination. The provisions of SFAS No. 141R are effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2008 and are applied prospectively to business combinations completed on or after that date. SFAS No. 141R is effective for the Company’s fiscal year ending September 26, 2010.  We will evaluate the impact, if any, that the adoption of SFAS No. 141R could have on our consolidated financial statements.

 

In December 2007, the FASB issued SFAS No. 160, “Noncontrolling Interests in Consolidated Financial Statements – an amendment of ARB No. 51.” SFAS No. 160 establishes accounting and reporting standards for noncontrolling interests (“minority interests”) in subsidiaries. Additionally, SFAS No. 160 amends certain consolidation procedures contained in Accounting Reporting Bulletin No. 51 “Consolidated Financial Statements” to make them consistent with the requirements of SFAS No. 141 “Business Combinations,” as revised. SFAS No. 160 clarifies that a noncontrolling interest in a subsidiary should be accounted for as a component of equity separate from the parent’s equity. The provisions of SFAS No. 160 are effective for fiscal years, and interim periods within those fiscal years, beginning after December 15, 2008 and are applied prospectively, except for presentation and disclosure requirements, which will apply retrospectively.  SFAS No. 160 is effective for the Company’s first quarter of fiscal year ending September 26, 2010. We are currently evaluating the impact, if any, that the adoption of SFAS No. 160 will have on our consolidated financial statements.

 

In March 2008, the FASB issued SFAS No. 161, “Disclosures about Derivative Instruments and Hedging Activities – an amendment of FASB Statement No. 133.”  SFAS No. 161 amends and expands the disclosure requirements of SFAS No. 133 “Accounting for Derivative Instruments and Hedging Activities” by establishing, among other things, the disclosure requirements for derivative instruments and hedging activities. This Statement requires qualitative disclosures about objectives and strategies for using derivatives, quantitative disclosures about fair value amounts of gains and losses on derivative instruments, and disclosures about credit-risk-related contingent features in derivative agreements.  The provisions of SFAS No. 161 are effective for fiscal years and interim periods beginning after November 15, 2008, with early application encouraged.  In September 2008, the FASB issued FSP No. FAS 133-1 and FIN 45-4, “Disclosures about Credit Derivatives and Certain Guarantees: An Amendment of FASB Statement No. 133 and FASB Interpretation No. 45; and Clarification of the Effective Date of FASB Statement No. 161,” which clarifies that the effective date applies to any reporting period beginning after November 15, 2008. SFAS No. 161 is effective for the Company’s second quarter of fiscal year ending September 27, 2009. We are currently evaluating the impact, if any, that the adoption of SFAS No. 161 will have on our consolidated financial statements.

 

In April 2008, the FASB issued FSP No. FAS 142-3, “Determination of the Useful Life of Intangible Assets.”  FSP No. FAS 142-3 amends the factors that should be considered in developing renewal or extension assumptions used to determine the

 

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useful life of a recognized intangible asset under SFAS No. 142, “Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets.”  The intent of the position is to improve the consistency between the useful life of a recognized intangible asset under SFAS No. 142 and the period of expected cash flows used to measure the fair value of the asset under SFAS No. 141R, and other U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. The provisions of FSP No. FAS 142-3 are effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2008.  FSP No. FAS 142-3 is effective for the Company’s fiscal year ending September 26, 2010. We will evaluate the impact, if any, that the adoption of FSP No. FAS 142-3 could have on our consolidated financial statements.

 

In May 2008, the FASB issued FSP No. APB 14-1, “Accounting for Convertible Debt Instruments That May Be Settled in Cash upon Conversion (Including Partial Cash Settlement).” FSP No. APB 14-1 clarifies that convertible debt instruments that may be settled in cash upon conversion (including partial cash settlement) are not addressed by paragraph 12 of APB Opinion No. 14, “Accounting for Convertible Debt and Debt Issued with Stock Purchase Warrants” and specifies that such users should separately account for the liability and equity components in a manner that will reflect the entity’s nonconvertible debt borrowing rate when interest cost is recognized in subsequent periods. The provisions of FSP No. APB 14-1 are effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2008, and interim periods within those fiscal years. FSP No. APB 14-1 is effective for the Company’s first quarter of fiscal year ending September 26, 2010. We are currently evaluating the impact, if any, that the adoption of FSP No. APB 14-1 will have on our consolidated financial statements.

 

Disclaimer on Forward-Looking Statements
 

Except for the historical information contained herein, the matters discussed in this analysis are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties, including but not limited to general business conditions, the timely development and opening of new stores, the integration of acquired stores, the impact of competition and changes in government regulation. For a discussion of these and other risks and uncertainties that may affect our business, see “Item 1A. Risk Factors.” The Company does not undertake any obligation to update forward-looking statements.

 

Item 7A.     Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.

 

We are exposed to interest rate changes and changes in market values of our long-term debt. We do not use financial instruments for trading or other speculative purposes. We are also exposed to foreign exchange fluctuations on our foreign subsidiaries.

 

Interest Rate Risk

 

We seek to minimize the risks from interest rate fluctuations through ongoing evaluation of the composition of our long-term debt.

 

During fiscal year 2007, the Company entered into a $700 million, five-year term loan agreement to finance the acquisition of Wild Oats Markets. The loan bears interest at our option of the alternative base rate (“ABR”) plus an applicable margin or LIBOR plus an applicable margin, based on the Company’s Moody’s and S&P ratings. At September 28, 2008, the loan bore interest at LIBOR. Our term loans do not give rise to significant fair value risk because they are variable interest rate loans with revolving maturities which reflect market changes to interest rates. During fiscal year 2008, the Company entered into a three-year interest rate swap agreement with a notional amount of $490 million to fix the interest rate at 4.718%, excluding applicable margin and associated fees, to help manage our exposure to interest rate fluctuations.

 

During fiscal year 2007, the Company also entered into a $250 million revolving line of credit that extends to 2012.  The credit agreement contained an accordion feature, which the company exercised during fiscal year 2008, to increase the revolving credit facility to $350 million. All outstanding amounts under this agreement bear interest at our option of the ABR plus an applicable margin or LIBOR plus an applicable margin, based on the Company’s Moody’s and S&P ratings. At September 28, 2008, $26 million was at ABR and $169 million was at LIBOR. Our line of credit borrowings do not give rise to significant fair value risk because these borrowings have revolving maturities.

 

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Additional term loan and line of credit information for September 28, 2008 and September 30, 2007 are as follows (in thousands):

 

 

 

2008

 

2007

 

Term loan agreement:

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding loan balance

 

$

700,000

 

$

700,000

 

Fair value of swap agreement (asset) liability

 

$

12,451

 

$

n/a

 

Variable interest rate, excluding applicable margin on non-swap portion of loan

 

2.469

%

5.179

%

Interest rate swap fixed interest rate, excluding applicable margin

 

4.718

%

n/a

 

Applicable margin – LIBOR, based on Moody’s and S&P ratings

 

1.375

%

1.000

%

Applicable margin – ABR, based on Moody’s and S&P ratings

 

0.375

%

n/a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Line of credit agreement:

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding line of credit balance

 

$

195,000

 

$

17,000

 

Variable interest rate, excluding applicable margin

 

4.221

%

6.750

%

Applicable margin – LIBOR, based on Moody’s and S&P ratings

 

1.500

%

1.000

%

Applicable margin – ABR, based on Moody’s and S&P ratings

 

0.500

%

n/a

 

 

Subsequent to the end of fiscal year 2008 and due to a downgrade in our corporate credit rating by Moody’s and S&P, the margin applicable to our term loan increased to 0.75% and 1.75% on ABR borrowings and LIBOR borrowings, respectively. Additionally, the margin applicable to our revolving credit facility increased to 0.875% and 1.875% on ABR borrowings and LIBOR borrowings, respectively. These applicable margins are currently the maximum allowed under these agreements. These ratings changes also allow participating banks to obtain security interests in certain of the Company’s equipment, inventories, accounts, intellectual property and other personal property assets to collateralize amounts outstanding under the term loan and revolving credit facility. Pursuant to this right, the participating banks have requested that the Company execute related security agreements and the Company intends to comply timely with this request.

 

Foreign Currency Risk

 

The Company is exposed to foreign currency exchange risk. We own and operate six supermarkets emphasizing natural and organic foods in Canada and five supermarkets emphasizing natural and organic foods in the United Kingdom. Sales made from the Canadian and United Kingdom stores are made in exchange for Canadian dollars and Great Britain pounds, respectively. Historically we have not hedged against this risk because of the small amounts of funds at risk.

 

During fiscal year 2008, the Company repatriated approximately $59.8 million related to certain foreign operations.  The remaining undistributed earnings related to those foreign operations are considered permanently reinvested.  It is the Company’s current intention to utilize those earnings in the foreign operations for an indefinite period of time. The Company does not currently hedge against the risk of exchange rate risk fluctuations.

 

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Item 8.           Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.

 

Whole Foods Market, Inc.

Index to Consolidated Financial Statements

 

 

 

Page

 

 

Number

Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

 

44

Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm on Internal Control over Financial Reporting

 

45

Consolidated Balance Sheets at September 28, 2008 and September 30, 2007

 

46

Consolidated Statements of Operations for the fiscal years ended September 28, 2008, September 30, 2007 and September 24, 2006

 

47

Consolidated Statements of Shareholders’ Equity and Comprehensive Income for the fiscal years ended September 28, 2008, September 30, 2007 and September 24, 2006

 

48

Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows for the fiscal years ended September 28, 2008, September 30, 2007 and September 24, 2006