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Vitamin Shoppe shares fall on analyst downgrade

The Associated Press

Vitamin Shoppe Inc. shares fell Thursday after an analyst lowered his investment rating on shares of the nutritional supplement seller, citing increasing competition from other retailers.

William Blair analyst Mark Miller lowered his rating to "Market Perform," or "Hold," from "Outperform," the equivalent of "Buy."

Miller said he is concerned that some products sold at Vitamin Shoppe are also sold on online retailer Amazon.com Inc. at lower prices. Miller said his research found that Vitamin Shoppe has been lowering prices to be more competitive with Amazon last year. Rival GNC Holdings Inc. is also offering more deals, putting pressure on Vitamin Shoppe, Miller said.

The analyst added that retail sales overall were weak during the fourth quarter, and even sales of dietary supplements — normally resilient during tough times — may have taken a hit.

Vitamin Shoppe did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The North Bergen, N.J.-based company operates more than 600 locations as well its own online store.

Shares of Vitamin Shoppe fell $2.36, or 4.8 percent, to $46.37 in afternoon trading Thursday. Its shares are down 25 percent over the past 12 months.