What's good for the GNC customer is great for the company's bottom line. GNC Holdings operates the world's leading nutritional-supplements retail chain devoted to items such as vitamins, supplements, minerals, and dietary products. The firm manufactures private-label products for Rite Aid, Sam's Club, and PetSmart and drugstore.com. Altogether, GNC has more than 7,700 stores, consisting of more than 3,000 company-owned stores in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico, followed by 2,500 franchised stores in 50-plus countries, and 2,125 store-within-a-store sites in Rite Aid locations. GNC, which went public in 2011, is controlled by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Board Plan and Ares Corporate Opportunities Fund II.
GNC Holdings went public in April 2011 with an offering worth $360 million. The selling shareholders -- Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and Ares Management -- acquired GNC four years earlier from Apollo Global Management, which twice tried and failed to take the chain public. Post IPO, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and Ares Management own about 44% of GNC's shares.
While sales at company-owned and franchised GNC stores account for nearly 90% of sales, it also operates a growing manufacturing/wholesale business (11% of 2011 sales). GNC's manufacturing plants are located in Greenville and Anderson South Carolina, where it makes products for its own stores and other retailers, including its long-time partner Rite Aid, Sam's Club, and PetSmart. (GNC produces a line of GNC-branded pet supplements for the pet supplies retailer.) GNC supplies Rite Aid with vitamins under the PharmAssure brand as well as a number of Rite Aid private label supplements.
GNC rings up 95% of its sales in the US. The company aims to grow its international presence through the opening of additional franchise stores in existing markets abroad, and by expanding into new high-growth markets. GNC also seeks to grow its international distribution business. Currently, GNC does business in about 55 foreign countries. Mexico, South Korea, and Chile are home to nearly half of the GNC's approximately 1,590 international franchise stores.
In its first year as a public company, GNC saw its sales increase by more than 13% vs. the prior year, while net income increased 18%. Same-store sales at company-owned stores in the US grew by 10%. The addition of about 130 new US stores and a big jump in online sales contributed to sales growth, as did the acquisition of LuckyVitamin.com in August 2011. (LuckyVitamin.com generated $14.5 million in revenue in 2011 following its August acquisition.) Total franchising revenue grew 14% in 2011 vs. 2010, while the company's wholesale/manufacturing business saw its sales increase nearly 19%, due to new partnerships (Sam's Club and PetSmart) and increased third-party sales. Indeed, GNC was one of 2011's top performing IPOs, with its stock price up 118% through March 2012.
GNC's growth strategy involves boosting its company-owned domestic retail earnings and square footage while increasing its international presence. It's also expanding its e-commerce business -- one of the fastest growing sales channels for nutritional supplements -- and continues to leverage the GNC brand through new partnerships. The acquisition of LuckyVitamin.com, an online retailer of nutritional supplements, helped boost online retail sales in 2011. The vitamin and supplement seller is banking on being well-positioned to capitalize on the favorable industry trends, such as the aging US population and consumers' interest in maintaining and improving health. (The retailer has worked hard to shed its "muscle head" image by redesigning all of its US stores to attract more women and seniors and increase its share of the nutritional supplement market.) GNC points to its iconic brand and top position (in number of stores and global reach) as the specialty retailer of health and wellness products as its primary competitive strengths. The supplements peddler also cites its recent website redesign, capital investment, and entry into partnerships as ways it plans to strong-arm its competition. GNC and PepsiCo formed a joint venture to develop and sell fortified coconut water products under the newly-created Phenom brand. (The products debuted in GNC stores in 2011.) Also, Rite Aid has extended its previous agreement to build GNC Live Well stores-within-a-store. As part of the extension, GNC will create 1,125 more stores in Rite Aid locations nationwide by the end of 2014. – less