January 29, 2008

Thoughts on Whole Foods in London

I am a pretty regular shopper at Whole Foods in London. The place makes me feel like I'm back in the States. There is something hugely comforting about the size of the store, all my favorite brands and the American staff. But for some reason the store doesn't seem to be doing well here. This is based on my observation that during the week the place is dead. I was there last night from 6-7pm, key shopping time, and there were very few shoppers and even fewer people at the tills. I've put some thought into it and here are possible reasons.

1. You can get healthy, organic, top-quality foods at almost any grocer in the UK.
2. People are not fashion conscious about where they shop - that's a big deal with Whole Foods shoppers in the States. Food is not a lifestyle here. Shopping at Whole Foods in the States is a statement about your politics, income and where you live.
4. Too expensive! Cheese and dairy products are cheap in the UK because of European Union farmers' subsidies. Why the heck are the prices triple at Whole Foods?
5. People aren't foodies. You buy your food, you cook it, you eat it. You don't talk about it, obsess over it, create weird allergies around it (although mine are real).
6. The store is overwhelming. Most grocery stores don't offer this kind of choice in the UK or probably Europe at large. People are overwhelmed.

It is a super store and I love going there - even if I forgot to use my discount coupon today - people just don't use coupons here - perhaps I'm becoming European in my shopping? Nah, a European wouldn't have written this post.

Counter to my assumption there is an article in the 2 December 2007 Austin-American Statesman that says the store is doing well.
Signs seem to show that Whole Foods is preparing for second London store