Vitamin Shoppe

Vitamin Shoppe CEO to step down as sales continue to fall

Vitamin Shoppe's net sales fell in 2017, but e-commerce sales showed a double-digit increase.

Vitamin Shoppe CEO Colin Watts will leave the company at the end of May, Chairman Alex Smith announced during Tuesday’s earnings call.

Smith has been appointed executive chairman, and the board has begun the search for Watts’ successor.

In a prepared statement, Watts said, “I am encouraged by the early signs of traction from critical initiatives, as shown by the improving quarterly comps, strong digital commerce growth, success of Spark Auto Delivery and growth in new customers in Q4.” He didn’t address the matter during the earnings call, other than to offer his thanks to Smith and the board of directors.

Vitamin Shoppe's net sales for 2017 were $1.18 billion, compared with $1.29 billion in 2016, a drop of 8.6 percent. For the full year, comparative sales decreased 6.5 percent. The biggest losses are in the sport and weight management category, Watts said during the call.

During 2017, Vitamin Shoppe implemented several strategies to increase sales, customer retention and profit margins. The company’s Spark Auto Delivery program, which started in August, exceeded the company’s expectations, Watts said, with about 400,000 active customers.

Company officials also unveiled a new plan to market Vitamin Shoppe as “the wellness authority,” with increased marketing, particularly online and through social media; community events and digital programs; and customer loyalty programs.

The company also is working with vendors to establish exclusive to Vitamin Shoppe flavors and brands, Watts said.

Fourth-quarter net sales of $268.8 million were 11.8 percent lower than sales in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Other results from the quarter include:

  • Digital commerce sales increased 15.3 percent.
  • Total comparable sales were down 4.6 percent, or 3.2 percent after adjusting for Christmas, which came in the company’s 53rd week.
  • Net loss of $17.6 million, compared to $11.6 million for the fourth quarter of 2016.
  • Loss per share of 75 cents, or 17 cents per share after adjustments.

Vitamin Shoppe plans to close 10 stores this year. It expects comparable store sales to improve slightly but to still be in the “low- to mid-negative single digits,” according to a statement.

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