Whole Foods Puts On a Show

Discussion
Mar 09, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Whole Foods’ wants its shoppers happy and spending their money — make that really happy and spending a lot of money.


The chain’s new 80,000 square-foot concept store in Austin, Tex., described in a USA Today report as “the grocery equivalent of Disney World for food junkies,” has everything from massage therapists on duty to fountains of running chocolate for organic strawberry dipping.


“Americans love to eat and Americans love to shop. But we don’t like to shop for food. It’s a chore, like doing laundry,” said Whole Foods’ founder John Mackey. “Shopping should be fun. With this store, we’re pioneering a new lifestyle that synthesizes health and pleasure. We don’t see a contradiction.”


“Whole Foods offers a psychological absolution of our excesses,” said Jerald Jellison, psychology professor at University of Southern California. “After filling your cart with sinful wine, beer, cheese and breads, you rationalize it’s healthy, so that cancels out the negatives.”


Author, media personality and industry analyst Phil Lempert said, “They’re not selling food. They’re selling life.”


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12 Comments on "Whole Foods Puts On a Show"


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Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
15 years 11 months ago

Phil Lempert is so right with his comment. Sell life, sell excitement, sell me what I want to be. The stuff that makes that happen is secondary. Starbucks does not sell coffee, they sell the experience of coffee, great music, interaction. I think not only is Whole Foods going to be successful, but also will force other retailers to follow.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 11 months ago

Stew Leonard’s began shopping as entertainment for food retailers, and their success is hard to argue with — although, the entertainment is only a small piece of their success. And, in fact, since it was targeted toward children, many moms dreaded taking their kids in the store because the trip took longer.

However, shoppers are looking for a pleasant shopping experience. They are more likely to return and will spend about 46% more time in stores they enjoy. The fact that Whole Foods is targeting adults with their in-store entertainment takes this into an entirely different realm.

It may be that few shoppers take advantage of these amenities, but knowing they’re there, and knowing the possibility exists for a massage, I believe, is likely to increase traffic. This is only true because Whole Foods is doing everything else right. If they weren’t, this would just be a dumb gimmick.

Lisa Everitt
Guest
Lisa Everitt
15 years 11 months ago

While it’s true that these lavish stores can’t survive in poor areas, one of Whole Foods’ more intriguing moves recently has been to open stores in urban neighborhoods — South of Market in San Francisco, downtown Miami, and soon in the East Village in Manhattan. They’re not afraid of urban grit, real estate challenges and higher transportation costs if it means access to the young, trend-setting foodies who often live in those neighborhoods. Nobody else seems to want to be there, but Whole Foods is there, and doing well.

The other issue: healthy organic eating doesn’t have to be expensive. You can feed your family very well on the supernatural chains’ advertised specials and house brands. The problem is that wee voice inside your head that lures you to the cheese case and the olive bar and the chocolate fountain!

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 11 months ago

Maybe a first for retailwire.com? The infamous drudgereport.com also featuring the same story on the same day from the same source. Now that’s hot news!

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
15 years 11 months ago

One only has to look at the great success of the Food Channel on TV to see that America loves its food and anyone or anything that can bring excitement to it. Given the choice of a traditional supermarket or this, the only ones who will resist are either too far away or can’t afford it.

Steve Weiss
Guest
Steve Weiss
15 years 11 months ago

Even though I admire Whole Foods, I can’t help wondering if a high concept grocery store is also a high risk proposition. Positioning for life long health and environmental concern, as Whole Food now does, seems sustainable. Chocolate fountains for strawberry dipping seems like something that will get old pretty fast. How many times did you go to Disneyland last year?

Doug Fleener
Guest
15 years 11 months ago

Absolutely, they’ll be successful with this strategy. Boston celebrity chef Jasper White said it best – “Food is love.” We Americans love our food and, for those who can afford it, Whole Foods new concept store will become a must visit destination. The future of retailing is to be either a price leader or an experience leader. Get stuck in the middle and you have to compete with Wal-Mart and other price leaders for razor thin margin sales. This is a winner.

It was a great article except for one problem; I’m now incredibly hungry!

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 11 months ago

Fantastic concept that will once again put Whole Foods ahead of the trend curve and have others (in all categories) scrambling to imitate. “Stay awhile” services, fripperies and experiential shopping are the wave of the retail future.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 11 months ago

In all retail successes, there is a Sense of Theater. The more you entertain people in their fashion, the more they attach to you. More power to Whole Foods.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 11 months ago
Theater, excitement, experience, fun, innovation, are all about what it takes to change the overall perception of drudgery in food shopping. Seems simple, doesn’t it? Certainly not on the surface or even to the comments about it. The perception is — costly, hard work, risky, etc. On the other hand, isn’t obsolescence a greater risk? Simplicity is the key, actually. There is nothing really complex about what Starbucks has done to the coffee experience. At its core, it’s quite simple, repeatable and consistent. Thus, their success. But wait, there’s more… In order for either to succeed, it takes real talent, real focus and the unmentionable ‘hard work’. None of this is really easy – even though simple. Costco’s formula is simple, but not easy. Starbucks’ formula is simplistic, but not easy. Whole Foods will not find this easy but they will, if they do the work, find it rewarding. The rewards will be in a better place to work, a better place to shop, and more profitable bottom line… and, equally important, will be a… Read more »
Michael L. Howatt
Guest
Michael L. Howatt
15 years 11 months ago

If Whole Foods’ long term plan is as good as their short term one, they should be very successful. Keep changing the perks (…say a white chocolate fountain next week)! Variety will keep consumers happy and they will visit frequently. I know all the words to “It’s a Small World” and that fits into a certain comfort zone. As long as Whole Foods customers are open to change, bring it on and often.

Tony Orlando
Guest
15 years 11 months ago

I believe Whole Foods knows what they are doing. You cannot put these kinds of stores in poor areas. They will succeed because the markets they are in are economically well above average. They, along with Starbucks, would never survive in most of America, because people will not shell out the extra money if they don’t have it in their pockets. God bless people with good incomes, because they can support these fine operations.

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