Published on: August 5, 2009The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey plans a corporate makeover that will return the retailer to its healthy living roots, moving away from the gourmet foods that fueled much of its growth over the past decade, only to create problems for the company when the recession hit.
In an interview with the Journal, Mackey said that he had concluded that the company had veered off course. "We sell a bunch of junk … we've decided if Whole Foods doesn't take a leadership role in educating people about a healthy diet, who the heck is going to do it?"
The company isn’t giving up on its recent efforts to improve its price image and move away from the “whole paycheck” label that has plagued it. Mackey tells the Journal that Whole Foods prices itself against Trader Joe’s wherever appropriate; he says it is harder to match Costco on price, so the company is looking to carry some large sizes that will help it compete.
The new healthy living approach will focus on cooking demonstrations and recipes, and the story notes that Mackey “brings a personal fervor to his latest mission. He lost 10 pounds in six months on a diet devoid of refined fats. While full details on the initiative will not be released for a few months, the company has assembled a team of health experts to develop a curriculum. An employee in each store will answer customers' questions about food choices and provide reference materials.”
In addition, Mackey reportedly “is considering launching a program in October that would reward employees who hit targets for weight loss, quitting smoking and improving cholesterol and blood pressure. Employees who meet those targets could see their employee discounts on store merchandise rise to 30% from 20%.”
- KC's View:
- First of all, I’m shocked to find out that there actually are Whole Foods employees who smoke. But let’s put that aside for a moment…
Seems to me that this can only help Whole Foods with its core consumer, while it may not help it grow beyond that basic constituency. But maybe that’s okay at the moment – the company seems clearly focused on getting leaner and meaner – and even a little humbler. While there may be some pain there, the long-term prognosis may be better for the company.