The Wall Street Journal reports Whole Foods Market suffered declining sales and margins. This isn’t really any more surprising than lower numbers reported for the grocery industry at large.
Whole Foods invested a great deal in their image of offering super high quality, organic, sustainable products and were known for the higher prices accompanied with their pioneering grocery shopping experience.
I predict they will be the first chain to reverse the decline. I say this because Whole Foods is about much more than selling commodities like most grocery chains. Their back story offers the possibility of vibrant, optimal health for their employees, customers and the planet. That’s the holy grail of leverage that shoppers and businesses are searching for – doing something good that makes a difference.
It will be interesting to watch how they engage their customer base with value added benefits. It will take more than just offering store brands with reduced prices. Everybody’s doing that.
Whole Foods has a “tribe” of loyal customers who are in alignment with their Whole Food, Whole People and Whole Planet mission. That mission will continue to serve them in spite of the current circumstances.
Now if they only revisited some of the historic sales results generated from in store experiments distributing Nutriton News, they might just find their time spent in the down trend purgatory to short lived indeed. Newsflash to shareholders: what else are they doing to generate a 950% increase in a supplement category within three weeks? Or a 24% increase the first month and 34% increase the second for a single sku?
The context is decisive. Empowering their shoppers with the experience of the healthy proposition they offer will do more than any belt tightening or cut backs will ever do.
The supplement category grew 5.9% during the last quarter of 2008 while all other categories were stagnant or flat. It looks like promoting an access to actually being healthy may be the answer to predictable, long term growth for a lot of industries. We can’t wait to take that ride with them.