Nutrisystem Beats Analysts, Announces New Magical Marketing Campaign

Andrew Klips  |

After announcing second quarter results late on Monday that topped its own expectations, shares of weight-loss company Nutrisystem, Inc. (NTRI) ran ahead by almost 9 percent on Tuesday to hit their highest level since January 2012.  Profits trailed the year earlier, but still were good enough to beat analyst predictions as well, although revenue was a little thin.  On Tuesday, the company announced actress Melissa Joan Hart as its latest female spokesperson to kick-off a fresh marketing campaign.  Nutrisystem seems to be looking for some magic to keep the share climb rolling.

Hart, who is perhaps best known for her role as “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” will join the ranks of other famous “spokesdieters” to endorse Nutrisystems, which have included singer/actress Marie Osmond and football stars Terry Bradshaw and Dan Marino, to name a few.  Former football player and now ESPN employee Mike Golic also was a Nutrisystem spokesman who in 2009 told TMZ that some of the food is good, some is awful.  Still, though, Golic claimed to have lost more than 50 pounds on the system in his ongoing battle to control his health after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2005.

To recap the earnings release, Nutrisystem reported revenue of $97.5 million, down from $124.6 million in the year prior quarter.  Adjusted earnings for the quarter totaled $6.4 million, or 22 cents per share, compared to $4.1 million, or 14 cents per share, in the quarter ended June 30, 2012.

Nutrisystem had previously forecast earnings in the range of 15 cents to 20 cents per share.  Wall Street was expecting EPS of 19 cents on revenue of $100.3 million.

Meanwhile, the company announced a dividend of 17.5 cents per share to shareholders of record as of August 8 and boosted its adjusted earnings per share outlook for the full 2013 year to the range of 27 to 35 cents, up from the previously announced range of 23 to 33 cents.  Analysts were predicting 33 cents per share in profits for the year.

For the current quarter, Nutrisystem expects earnings between 8 cents and 13 cents per share, just shy of the 14 cents per share Wall Street was looking for.

Back to the former teenage witch, Nutrisystem said that Hart, who currently stars in ABC’s “Melissa & Joey,” has already lost 30 pounds on their program, although it doesn’t say how long Hart has been on the program.  Some assumptions can be made based upon Hart giving birth to her third child last September.  Unlike rival Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem has said that they don’t pursue spokespersons with the intention of treating them as guinea pigs to lose weight; they approach people after hearing that they have had success on the system. 

Hart has quickly hit the Twittersphere with the new endorsement deal, making several tweets mentioning the company in the past day.

Ultimately, shareholders are not going to be too wrapped-up in who is promoting the product, but it does help keep Nutrisystem in front of diverse demographics, which helps with sales and that’s something Nutrisystem needs more of.  Some rising sales, coupled with the continued cost cutting measures that have been employed by the company, will continue to fatten the share price, not put it on a diet.  There’s nothing magical about that equation.

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