New Whole Foods’ store-within-a-store concept is ‘rooted in nature’


Discussion
Photo: Whole Foods Bridgewater
May 31, 2018
Matthew Stern

One of the most closely-watched players in the grocery world, Amazon-owned Whole Foods, has opened a boutique in one of its locations that takes the retailer into new, non-food territory.

A Whole Foods in Bridgewater, NJ is now home to a boutique called Bridgewater Plant & Plate, which the grocer’s website describes as a lifestyle shop dedicated to “beauty, garden and home goods rooted in nature.”

An article announcing the store’s opening on POPSUGAR further details the shop’s offerings — a mix of national brands like Hedley & Bennett aprons and products like candles, jewelry, floral crafts and pottery from local and regional brands and artists.

Since Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, many smaller grocery competitors have been adding non-grocery items and store sections to offer more differentiated shopping experiences in anticipation of increased competition.

For instance, regional grocer Hy-Vee has placed Basin and Beauty boutique stores-within-a-store in 11 of its 240 locations. That chain has also begun a partnership with fitness chain Orangetheory to provide workout classes (in addition to other food-related partnerships).

The newly-launched Plant & Plate boutique is also an interesting move for Whole Foods in light of its shift in buying practices and supplier relationships.

Long perceived as a good place for local and regional CPG brands to get on the shelf and gain a market foothold, Whole Foods has taken a series of steps towards centralization that could limit the variation of offerings across stores. Last August, the chain accelerated an existing plan to consolidate buying at its central office in Austin. In January, the chain announced the implementation of slotting allowances, making vendors pay to place their products on store shelves and displays. 

If the point of the buying centralization is to promote consistency between store experiences, that could mean a plan to eventually expand the Plant & Plate concept and signal that Amazon isn’t limiting what’s on Whole Foods’ shelves to groceries.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see adding Plant & Plate boutiques as the right move for Whole Foods on a larger scale? What does such a move say about Amazon/Whole Foods’ strategy moving forward? How do you expect competitors to react?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"We will likely see more product diversity infused into the stores ... Whole Foods may look very different in a few years."
"Whole Foods customers are introspectively aware that they are “Whole Foods” people. It seems like the Plant & Plate offering aligns with that persona."
"With Amazon’s deep rooted use of retail data analytics, clearly this move to test a Plant & Plate store-in-store is based on the shopper’s needs..."

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20 Comments on "New Whole Foods’ store-within-a-store concept is ‘rooted in nature’
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Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust

Centralized buying is not incompatible with localized options. Centralization can achieve economies of scale for the majority of SKUs that drive the core business, and home delivery. But there are always pockets of opportunity available to localize and test within a large plan-o-gram. Amazon is a master of using data to customize and personalize.

Amazon is also a master of testing concepts, and you can bet Plant & Plate will be measured from every angle. Plant & Plate seems like a perfect fit for Whole Foods, but we will soon know if works by how rapidly it scales.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

Will consumers want to enjoy this experience? I suspect yes. They will discover the new area, talk about it and browse. What more could Whole Foods hope for? The boutique experience can be magical and a boutique as a store-within-a-store offers a oasis from aisles and fixtures and neatly-stocked shelves. The idea of an affordable luxury or that thoughtful gift of something unusual has made,and will always make the boutique concept a wonderful consumer experience in retail.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is a sensible brand extension and one that should do well for Whole Foods. The key is to keep the assortment focused and fresh, with a constant supply of new and innovative products.

That said, Whole Foods still has a lot of work to do in fixing its core proposition and that needs to take priority. Prices remain too high; many store environments are poor; the food product mix could be refreshed a little; and certain elements like the hot-food bar need a major overhaul.

Those are the priorities that will deliver growth. Whereas this concept is the icing on the cake.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Whole Foods is following the lead of other grocers that have opened store-within-a-store concepts to generate more store visits and attract potentially new customers that don’t normally shop at their stores. It seems like a good strategy, but it is important that stores are measuring the results to see if it is actually improving the store’s total sales and profits. I believe they need to test other concepts as well that may, at first glance, look to be radical but given their store demographics may be a perfect fit — organic makeup and skin care, brokerage service, who knows — the key is driving traffic and dwell times.

From the Amazon/Whole Foods perspective, it seems like a logical step to making Whole Foods broader to support other products offered by Amazon. The first step was Amazon lockers, and we will likely see more product diversity infused into the stores beyond Bridgewater Plant & Plate concepts. Whole Foods may look very different in a few years.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

I’ve passed that store during construction, but have yet to visit. It’s on a very retail saturated highway and may now be part of a small strip mall environment. It’s hardly a destination and probably in some ways, just the area supermarket.

Meh. I just don’t see this as any big draw. Whole Foods sells a smattering of these types of items in-store already. I’m doubtful that the so-called “boutique” is so extraordinary. Sure it’s better than not having it, but at this location or any other, I don’t see it as a big draw, nor do I see it having any balance sheet impact.

Amazon would do much better by customers to focus on and resolve the broken order-to-shelf inventory system that creates bare shelves and disenfranchised shoppers.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Adding Plate & Plant boutiques makes all the sense in the world for Whole Foods. Think it through: They definitely have the customer for the products and prices, plus it gives them a platform to broaden the customer’s perception of finding new and unique items during store visits, and that translates into stronger positioning in the customer’s mind against competitors. Last thought: the margin on these products will be nothing to sneeze at! Brilliant.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

I have to admit it was the “rooted in nature” meme that made me want to respond to this article. It’s an interesting piece, but not what I was expecting. “Rooted in nature” does not bring up images of aprons, jewelry and pottery though I’m rethinking what “nature” means. Still, my comment is a long way from slotting allowances and centralized buying. I apologize.

Probably because I’m deeply involved in a venture focused on advanced biologics, plant-based nutrients and pesticides, soil remediation and medical foods I had a brief moment of excitement that Whole Foods was thinking along the same lines. I absolutely believe nature has the solution to every problem humankind has created. That means from diseases to water contamination to chemical pollution of our food. I’m desperately hoping our world is on the edge of transition back to the “nature” we once had that truly made us whole. The big question is whether or not the industrial, medical and governmental establishment will continue to block the path.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Ian: great comments, I’m in total agreement with your thinking. Unfortunately, I have no hope of Amazon+ Whole Foods moving in the direction you expressed. My expectation is that within a few years, Amazonification will move Whole Foods farther away from your ideals and much closer to a mainstream supermarket chain.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

You shatter my dreams Ken Lonyai!

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

This just plain makes sense. It is a natural extension of the Whole Foods brand. It is so logical that I think it has little to do with a new Amazon influence and everything to do with a Whole Foods vision.

While other retailers may react with similar endeavors, they must ask themselves, “does this fit with who we are and how we are perceived?” Unfortunately, few will ask that question.

David Weinand
BrainTrust

This is about addressing the cultural and lifestyle expectations of the core Whole Foods shopper. As others have said, this is not a new trend, but assuming the products that are sold inside this “boutique” fit the broader profile of their shopper, it will be a nice addition to the store experience. I’d expect this to expand.

Evan Snively
BrainTrust

Whole Foods customers are introspectively aware that they are “Whole Foods” people. It seems like the Plant & Plate offering aligns with that persona. If Amazon/Whole Foods can offer parallel products in-store that reinforce this personal brand image, it will only strengthen consumers commitment to their lifestyle and the Whole Foods chain.

Jeff Sward
Guest

Centralize vs. localize. Turns out it’s extremely difficult to strike the right balance. Ask Macy’s. I just returned from a one year assignment in China where the client is centralizing 2400+ stores. Vast geography. Widely varying climates. Multiple ethnicities. My advice — slow down! Centralize what you can and localize what you have to. Whole Foods wants to expand their reach? Great! No surprise under Amazon’s umbrella. I have to believe that Amazon knows how to slice and dice the data to optimize local opportunities.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

This could get really messy. Have you been to a Kroger Marketplace? They have lounge chairs, home goods, apparel, you name it … and man, when looking for a simple box of crackers, that “over-selection” is a nightmare. You get the sense though, like many things Amazon does, that this is a test just to see what happens. And when they find out it’s not so hot, they’ll just kill it. Unlike the 120,000 square foot Marketplace.

Gabriela Baiter
BrainTrust

The one thing that Whole Foods has on Kroger is a smaller store footprint and merchandising strategy with a carefully curated product mix. The plant and flower section in the front of grocery stores has been around for years, so I do see Whole Foods continuing to test this as a discovery zone. With Amazon’s customer data and Whole Foods’ retail expertise, I imagine we’ll see a lot more store-within-a-store “tests” that appeal to the impulse buyer.

Karen S. Herman
BrainTrust

With Amazon’s deep rooted use of retail data analytics, clearly this move to test a Plant & Plate store-in-store is based on the shopper’s needs and interests, such as this “nesting” theme launching in Bridgewater, NJ, a suburban community close to New York City. As a “lifestyle shop featuring a variety of home, beauty and garden goods rooted in nature,” Plant & Plate is a great fit and Amazon will see what sticks. A store-in-store is a good way to groom a new brand. Possibly the plan is to launch Plant & Plate in Whole Foods and, if successful, transition to a stand alone store? With Amazon, think outside the box.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Without knowing the size/placement of these “boutiques,” it’s hard to comment much on their viability; if it’s like what’s shown in the picture — an alcove — then I would say it’s unlikely to stand out much.

Anne Howe
BrainTrust

Amazon will push and test the limits of the brand, as they should. Valid concepts within and outside of its current shopper base! Whole Foods could easily become foods and a mashup up of Williams Sonoma or Sur la Table. In two years time I would expect a fair amount of disruption.

Lisa Brink
Guest

This concept is a smart and sensible extension for the brand. Whole Foods is trusted for the goods that it sources, and is likely to be trusted in this space too, which is not completely outside of what they do today. Total speculation, but I bet Whole Foods is using this as a low-risk opportunity to assess where this idea could eventually go (more stores-within-a-store or possibly stand-alone stores). While it may not be a destination store now, it offers consumers a new experience, and it will likely trigger impulse buys or remind shoppers that they’ve got a gifting list to consider (convenience and great products). Can’t wait to see how this plays out.

Christopher P. Ramey
BrainTrust

Amazon, knowing everything they do is under a microscope, has created a red herring.

The categories are too small to be of interest. Don’t be fooled. There’s something bigger here that has nothing to do with plants or plates.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"We will likely see more product diversity infused into the stores ... Whole Foods may look very different in a few years."
"Whole Foods customers are introspectively aware that they are “Whole Foods” people. It seems like the Plant & Plate offering aligns with that persona."
"With Amazon’s deep rooted use of retail data analytics, clearly this move to test a Plant & Plate store-in-store is based on the shopper’s needs..."

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