Teavana Losing Steam


In January, I made a bearish underperformCAPScall on Teavana (NYS: TEA) . Given the fact that the premium tea purveyor's stock price has recently lost a heck of a lot of steam, I'm mulling the idea of reversing my stance and embracing high-tea time.

Teavana shares have dropped considerably since the company went public last summer. Its most recent spill related to first-quarter earnings, which missed analysts' estimates. Teavana's net income increased 6% to $3.5 million, or $0.10 per share. Revenue increased 27% to $44.3 million, and same-store sales increased 1.7%.

Granted, Teavana shares deserved the drubbing. These are not torrid results from a company whose stock was previously priced for high growth. These figures are fairly decaf, in fact.

Still, Teavana's shares' descent to a historical low (as short as that trading history may be) represents a much better opportunity for investors who believe in the company's story. Part of the investment thesis is that tea is an underserved market here in the U.S. According to Teavana's IPO prospectus, the global market for tea represented $56.6 billion in sales in 2009, and the American market only made up 9% of that market.

Right now, Teavana's trading at 17 times forward earnings, far cheaper than when I looked at it in January; it was trading at 31 times forward earnings then. For lack of a better publicly traded comparison, I'd throw Starbucks (NAS: SBUX) out there; it trades at 23 times forward earnings at the moment.

Still, Teavana's no "third-place" hangout cafe. Teavana provides premium loose-leaf teas, artisanal tea accoutrements, and other tea-related merchandise in the company's mall-based stores. It competes with indie tea shops and the formidable range of teas that are available in supermarkets. Hain Celestial's (NAS: HAIN) Celestial Seasonings might spring to mind, although it's not a pure play in tea. Incidentally, it trades at 27 times forward earnings at the moment.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (NAS: GMCR) could probably be included in the comparative mix, since it provides consumers with caffeinated beverages both in bagged bean form and through its Keurig single-serve coffee machines and K-Cups, even though it lacks stand-alone retail stores. Green Mountain trades at just eight times forward earnings, but big troubles led to that tiny multiple, including the ongoing SEC probe into its accounting practices.

Teavana aims to craft a "Heaven of Tea" retail experience, and its sales force is comprised of so-called "teaologists." So maybe in a sense it more strongly resembles lululemon athletica (NAS: LULU) , which trades at a crazy 35 times forward earnings, but has been incredibly successful at marketing the yoga experience to the masses and racking up the associated financial growth.

The fact that Teavana has no real clear-cut competitor actually strikes me as one of its advantages, if it really can convince droves of consumers to buy its high-end teas at American malls. This is no easy feat. Americans adore their high-powered coffee, and the macroeconomic climate isn't exactly sympathetic to discretionary splurge spending right now.

Still, given Teavana's shrinking multiple, the idea's brewing that it's time to turn more bullish and end my underperform CAPScall. You can see my overall CAPS track record here. What do you think of Teavana? Pour out your opinion in the comments box below.

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At the time thisarticle was published Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Hain Celestial, Starbucks, and lululemon athletica. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of lululemon athletica, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Starbucks, and Hain Celestial. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing covered calls on Starbucks and creating a lurking gator position in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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