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 some 3,200 company-owned stores in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico, followed by 2,780 franchised stores in 50-plus countries, and 2,180 store-within-a-store sites in Rite Aid locations. Founded as a health food store in Pittsburgh in 1935, fast-growing GNC Holdings went public in 2011.
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. GNC was one of 2011's top performing IPOs, with its stock price up 118% through March 2012.
GNC rings up 95% of its sales in the US. Currently, GNC does business in about 55 foreign countries. Mexico, South Korea, and Chile are home to nearly half of the GNC's approximately 1,830 international franchise stores. GNC has more than 165 company-owned stores in Canada.
While sales at company-owned and franchised GNC stores account for 90% of sales, it also operates a growing manufacturing/wholesale business (10% of 2012 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.
In its first full year as a public company, GNC saw its sales increase 17% vs. 2011, while net income increased 81% over the same period. All three business segments posted increases: franchise (up 22%), retail (up 18%), and manufacturing (up 8%). Sales of diet products and VMHS were especially strong, up 38% and 15%, respectively, although all product categories posted annual sales gains. Sales in the US, which accounts for the vast majority of GNC's sales, rose 17% year over year, while international sales increased by 18%. The addition of new stores, and increases in same-store sales at existing locations are also fueling GNC's double-digit gains in sales and profits. Indeed, the firm has added $1 billion in sales since 2006.
Revenue generated by GNC's manufacturing/wholesale business rose 8% in 2012 vs. 2011, mainly due to an increase in third-party contract manufacturing sales from the firm's South Carolina manufacturing plant.
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 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.
Post IPO, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and Ares Management own about 44% of GNC's shares.