If you've ever referred to Whole Foods as "Whole Paycheck," you may be excited to learn about their new offshoot chain, 365 by Whole Foods Market. The first location will open in the Silver Lake neighborhood of L.A. next month, with the next two planned for Lake Oswego, Oregon and Bellevue, Washington in July and September.
But the design of the stores (which the company shared with Business Insider)—and how they will vary from traditional Whole Foods locations—hints at other grocery-shopping pain points the company has identified and how it plans to solve them:
It's hard to find what you need. The goal for the 365 stores is to have everything in eyesight: Customers should be able to see the whole store from wherever they stand, with lower fixtures and shelving units that make it easier to find—and then reach—the turmeric.
The selection is overwhelming. Whereas a typical Whole Foods carries after 20,000 items, 365 stores will offer about 7,000—a mix of 365 Everyday Value (the Whole Foods private label) and national brands.
Prepared foods are inaccessible, shoved to the side of the store and surrounded by crowds. At 365 locations, the prepared food section will be at the center of the store, and so you avoid...
Waiting in line for 30 minutes to buy hummus from the salad bar. There will be express check-outs (accepting only credit cards and Apple Pay) centrally located near the prepared foods.
There's no place to hang out? According to Jeff Turnas, president of the new chain, 365 will distinguish itself from its competitors (Trader Joe's, Kroger, Sprouts) by offering shoppers places to hang out; in addition to in-store restaurants, there will be spaces like craft beer, coffee, and juice bars.
365 is meant to appeal to younger, millennial shoppers, and judging from these plans, it seems that Whole Foods is putting its money on the observations that millennials want it all high-quality groceries for low prices; they like to shop quickly (and are more likely to make fast stops at the store for particular items rather than big shopping trips); they spend money on prepared foods and convenience items; and they see the grocery store as a type of community center.
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Much of the new configurations seem like they'll improve the shopping experience—there might be less time waiting in line or searching the three olive oil displays to try to find the one we're looking for—but we're left with one huge question:
If the goal, as stated by Whole Foods, is to "bring healthy foods to even more communities with a fresh, quality-meets-value shopping experience that’s fun and convenient," shouldn't the company have diversified its initial group of 365 locations, opening at least one of the first 3 stores in an underserved community where good-quality groceries at any price are hard to find?
The Silver Lake location is 10 minutes by car from the Glendale Whole Foods and 15 minutes from the Arroyo location; the Lake Oswego 365 market is 20 minutes from the Bridgeport location and 25 minutes from the Laurelhurst store; and the Bellevue store is 10 minutes from a Whole Foods proper. (See the rest of the planned locations here.) Will these stores be of service to those people most in need of nutritious, low-cost groceries?
Is this a step in truly making "healthy living easier for everyone"—or in making it more convenient for a chosen few?
What irks you the most about the grocery store experience? And can you imagine "hanging out" there? Tell us in the comments below!
On Black & Highly Flavored, co-hosts Derek Kirk and Tamara Celeste shine a light on the need-to-know movers and shakers of our food & beverage industry.