Wild Oats and Whole Foods to Become Neighbors
By George Anderson
Whole Foods will soon have a store operating in Portland, Maine that is right next to a Wild Oats location.
The country’s leading natural foods chain has agreed to buy Whole Grocer, an independent natural foods grocer that has served consumers in the city for over 20 years.
While it is not unusual for Whole Foods and Wild Oats to compete for customers, the situation in Portland where two stores are right next to one another is far afield of the norm.
The two retailers will only be neighbors for a short while. Whole Foods plans to operate in the current location until it opens a new unit, a few blocks away, sometime in 2007.
Sonja Tuitele, a spokesperson for Wild Oats, told The Associated Press that the chain is not worried about the impact of Whole Foods on its Portland business.
According to Ms. Tuitele, Whole Foods has stores in three-quarters of the markets where Wild Oats operates. While store sales generally decline when a new Whole Foods opens, she said, they rebound to previous levels after a few months.
In the natural foods market, said MS. Tuitele, the more the merrier.
“There was a lot of noise that we were going to put Whole Grocer out of business, but everything we’ve heard is that her (Whole Grocer owner Chandrika Sanyal) business has improved,” she said. “A rising tide lifts all boats. The whole industry really has the wind at its back.”
Moderator’s Comment: What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of Whole Foods and Wild Oats? As the manager
of the Wild Oats and Whole Foods stores in Portland, what do you do to keep your customers from going next door to buy natural foods and related items? –
George Anderson – Moderator