retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal has a story about how Whole Foods, looking for new expansion opportunities, "is betting that shoppers in low-income neighborhoods will pay for lavender-lemon cream pie and locally sourced beer - along with milk, bread and other staples." One example is a recently opened store on Chicago's South Side, where Whole Foods opened a store in the Englewood section, that is "far smaller than most Whole Foods outlets. Prices on staples such as eggs and cheese are lower than its other outlets in the city."

And, "the grocer is also seeking customers in lower-income corners of cities. Since 2013, the company has opened stores in Detroit and New Orleans. A store is slated to open in Newark, N.J., next year."

In Chicago, the Journal writes, "Whole Foods hired an Englewood resident to canvass churches, nail salons among other places for nearly a year to ascertain what locals wanted to see in the store. As a result, Whole Foods added a beer and wine department, beefed up its beauty products geared toward black shoppers and met requests from local leaders to hire some employees with criminal records."

However, the story also notes that "Whole Foods isn’t as financially robust as when the grocer ... first committed six years ago to opening four stores in low-income and predominantly minority areas nationwide."

And, the Journal writes that it remains to be seen "whether Whole Foods’ Englewood store will draw the traffic it needs to succeed. The planned Whole Foods in Newark is at a high-traffic intersection surrounded by office buildings, and the Detroit store stands across the street from a hospital and college. The Englewood store is near a community college but otherwise surrounded by blocks of vacant lots and rundown bungalows."
KC's View:
I am not persuaded that this is an idea. that is going to work. Not that lower income neighborhoods should not have access to high quality food stores, but I'm just not sure that Whole Foods' traditional approach to retailing will be seen as relevant to their lives.

Now, maybe Whole Foods will be able to lower its prices significantly enough that low income folks will be able to buy eggs and cheese and bread and milk there. If so, I think it can be a good idea ... but it seems so contrary to what Whole Foods traditionally has been about that it seems counter intuitive.