Medifast to close 8 weight loss centers, sell more

Owings Mills-based Medifast Inc. said Friday that it plans to close eight "under-performing" weight loss centers by the end of the month and sell some of its other centers next year, part of a push toward franchising as the performance of its company-owned locations declines.

Company officials did not specify where those Medifast Weight Control Centers are located but said none are in Maryland.

The weight loss company has about 120 corporate-owned and franchised centers, including 10 in Maryland, that offer "body composition" assessments, counseling and Medifast meal replacements. Two, both opened recently, are outside the U.S. About 70 percent of the centers are company-owned.

The sale — planned for the first half of next year — will move about 10 to 15 centers to "an existing business partner."

Medifast CEO Michael MacDonald said the company is looking for additional franchisees.

He said in a statement that Friday's announcement is "consistent with our long-term strategy to better position the Medifast Weight Control Center sales channel for profitable growth." Same-store sales for company-owned centers fell 18 percent in the third quarter compared with a year earlier, the company reported in November, though it blamed some of the loss on the sales plan.

Medifast said it will take a one-time charge of about $2.5 million during the quarter ending this month as a result of the center closings. It closed three other centers during the third quarter as leases expired.

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