Is the writing on the wall for Whole Foods?

Its food and beverage sales? Waning. Its Board of Directors? Reshuffled. Its stock market performance? Closing price declines. Uh oh. Is the writing on the wall for Whole Foods Market?

According to USA Today, Whole Foods Market ushered in “its seventh consecutive quarter of falling sales in stores open at least a year.” The media company also reported it would not be out of the question for senior executives to put Whole Foods Market on the market.

When Whole Foods Market first opened its doors, it differentiated itself from other grocery chains by sourcing local specialty food items, antibiotic-free poultry and wild-caught seafood, as well as organic fruits and vegetables.

Two things can be attributed to the mind-boggling success of its early marketing campaigns. First, Whole Foods Market sold food and beverage products nobody else did. (Think 80-percent cacao Fair Trade chocolate bar, free-range eggs, organic asparagus, and grass fed beef.) Second, Whole Foods Market offered an experience nobody else did. (Think an artful arrangement of produce, a series of build-your-own food stations, and a Certified Cheese Professional offering you a wedge of Manchego to sample.)

In other words, an exclusive product plus an extraordinary experience equaled a compelling brand.

Throughout the twenty-first century, the grocery chain’s competitors began selling the same caliber, often times the same brand, of food and beverage products as Whole Food Market. For example, free-range eggs have almost become a dime a dozen in that the majority of grocery chains now carry them.

Competitors of Whole Foods Market also began changing the consumer experience at their grocery locations. Our neighborhood Market Basket added a section of prepared food items. The local Stop and Shop started supplying a bowl of oranges and bananas at the entrance of its store for hungry shoppers aged ten and below.

A grocery chain (and any business venture for that matter) must think in the future but operate in the present to remain a frontrunner in the metaphorical race for sales. In the beginning, Whole Foods Market did just that. However, it’s almost as if Whole Foods Market stopped running (and quit thinking in the future but operating in the present) right in the middle of the race!

What has changed about Whole Foods Market this past decade? Nothing. It’s more of the same. For that reason, its competitors have reached (and I’d venture to say that a select few of its competitors have surpassed) it in the race for sales.

In order to get its head back in the game, Whole Foods Market must rediscover its entrepreneurial spirit. Only when it starts to think in the future but operate in the present again will it be able to reverse its monetary woes.

What’s your take on Whole Foods Market’s financial situation? If you sat on its Board of Directors, what action item would you institute to turn the chain around?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,



One thought on “Is the writing on the wall for Whole Foods?

  1. Ellie

    Hi Katie,
    You are incredible, what an educational blog. I have not been aware of Whole Foods’ decline, shame on me. I do enjoy shopping there, as I feel it is always fresh. The store appearance is neat, clean, and visually appealing.
    I guess they will have to think back to the early days, to get back in the race.
    Thank you as always for your blog.

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