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The Boston Globe reports that Whole Foods has opened its first Wellness Club at its store in Dedham, Massachusetts, noting that it is “a concept that combines health with commerce.

Heather Hardy, who is overseeing the effort for Whole Foods, says that it is all about “empowering people to make healthier choices.”

The Globe writes, “Access to that empowerment comes at a price: It costs $199 to become a member of the Wellness Club, and monthly dues are $45.

“As at a gym, club members check in at a front desk, but in this case it’s steps from the salad bar, near the fish. Inside the glassed-in, 950-square-foot space - with sage-colored walls and fresh-cut flowers - they can access a reference library, undergo a lifestyle evaluation, or take a cooking class.

“Part of the concept is to learn how to prepare a dish - such as mango quinoa porridge - from a chef in a sleek kitchen, and then head out into the store to find, and buy, the ingredients ... Help from visiting nutritionists, lectures on how to handle late-night cravings, and even day trips to leaf peep are part of the club’s offerings. A personal coach can create an eating plan and club members can sign up for one-on-one cooking session with chef Ryan Parker at an additional cost.”

The story notes that “a thousand products that meet the club’s code of health - whole foods, plants, nutrient-dense foods, and healthy fats -have been tagged with the Wellness Club seal of approval. Club members receive a 10 percent discount on those items, from produce to the bulk aisle.”
KC's View:
I do love the audacity of this program, launching at the same time as the economy once again appears to be reeling. But perhaps Whole Foods has it right - offering this option at the same time as it seems to have more products on sale in its aisles. Perhaps it makes sense to cover both ends of your customer base. No reason that the existence of the Wellness Club should annoy people who aren;t writing checks to belong.

I also love the notion of education - it is something that more retailers ought to do, even if not quite on the scale of what Whole Foods is doing.

BTW...I was fascinated by the report in USA Today this weekend about how Ford is telling buyers of its new 2012 Mustang Boss 302 that they can get free driving lessons from Team Mustang and Ford Racing at the Ford Racing High Performance Driving School at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. Of course, the car goes for more than $43,000 ... so you have to have more than a few bucks to qualify. But I endorse the idea that when people buy a product, companies ought to take the initiative in teaching them how to use it most effectively.