Thursday, May 26, 2016

Smaller Servings From Whole Foods

Here is your portion:

"Whole Foods seeks to shed ‘Whole Paycheck’ rap with smaller stores" by Craig Giammona Bloomberg News  May 19, 2016

Whole Foods Market, stung for years by snarky comments about its prices, is about to find out if it can dispel the notion that its name should really be “Whole Paycheck.”

Next week, the company will open the first of several smaller stores that will specialize in cheaper private-label groceries. It’s seeking to demonstrate that Whole Foods isn’t just for foodies willing to pay a premium for grass-fed beef and organic kale.

Called 365 by Whole Foods Market, the new concept is designed to help the retailer compete in an era when the organic food it first brought to the masses is now widely available at convenience stores and supermarkets. Company officials are trying to ignite growth.

“They have to do this,” said Allen Adamson, the former North American chairman of the branding firm Landor Associates. “They’ve played out their hand.”

“We want it to appeal to a wider audience,” said Jeff Turnas, a company veteran who is running 365. “This model allows us to compete with everybody in the market.” 

Cool name, seeing as people need to eat every day.

Expanding from its original store in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods rose to prominence over the past 20 years by popularizing organic food, prepared meals, and craft beer. The company helped cultivate the rising foodie culture in the United States while benefiting from the increased interest in healthy eating. Its sales and share price rose in tandem for the better part of a decade.

But with that success came stiff competition. Conventional retailers like Kroger and Walmart have expanded their organic and natural offerings, undercutting Whole Foods on price.

Analysts aren’t convinced the new concept will stabilize the company. For one, they warn that the cheaper 365 concept might cannibalize sales from existing Whole Foods markets. Scott Mushkin, an analyst at Wolfe Research, recently called the 365 rollout a “sign of the company’s search for answers.”

“The company has lowered prices, remodeled stores and launched a national advertising campaign all to no avail as sales continue to slip,” Mushkin wrote.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a high-end retailer has rolled out a lower-priced sister chain to draw in more budget-minded consumers. Nordstrom, the premium department store, had success when it started Nordstrom Rack, as did Gap with Old Navy.

For a while anyway.

Whole Foods appears to be following the Nordstrom model, said Michelle Grant, a grocery analyst at Euromonitor International.

The new venture will provide the company with a chance to showcase its 365 private label while also taking advantage of the fact that grocery shoppers are increasingly agnostic about where they buy food.

Are they? Do we really not care what goes into our bodies?

More and more, consumers will visit two or three grocery stores on a regular basis, a departure from the days when loading up at the local supermarket once a week was the norm, Grant said. And the lower prices at 365 should appeal to millennials who respect the Whole Foods brand but can’t afford to shop there.

“For a consumer who wants to eat healthy, on a budget, this will have a really strong appeal,” Grant said.

Whole Foods might never be able to fully shed its reputation. Stories about hefty prices for water infused with asparagus or prepeeled oranges will enforce the notion that the store is for wealthier shoppers, and advertising touting lower prices might not easily erase that image....


I'm sure I've eaten from the Globe's spread on the Whole Foods table over the years, but those plates are gone and I go to Market Basket now.

Food is not the only thing I will be soon cutting back.