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The Seattle Times reports that a King County Superior Court judge in Washington State has ordered Amazon-owned Whole Foods to reopen its closed Bellevue “365 by Whole Foods” store within 14 days.

The ruling came after the owners of the Bellevue Square shopping center sued Whole Foods, arguing that the retailer was violating the terms of its lease.

According to the Times, “The Bellevue Square lease, originally signed in July 2015, included an operating covenant committing the grocer to keep the 34,000-square-foot site open seven days a week for the first 10 years of the 20-year lease, Judge Mary Roberts wrote. Whole Foods said the store’s sales didn’t meet the company’s projections after its  September 2016 opening, Roberts wrote. Whole Foods has continued to pay rent since vacating the store in October, and its attorneys argued that those payments satisfied its obligations under the lease. But the lease, Roberts said, contains no provision that would allow Whole Foods to back out if the store didn’t prove to be profitable.”

Whole Foods had said upon closing the store - which happened after its acquisition by Amazon - that it was just because of underperformance by that specific unit, not any sort of lack of commitment to the format in general.

This is the second recent case of a mall owner suing a retailer that was closing stores. A judge recently ruled that Starbucks could not close 77 Teavana stores in Simon-owned malls after the real estate company argued that it violated the terms of its leases and would hurt the malls’ overall image and profitability.
KC's View:
While I’ve never been the biggest fan of the 365 concept, the Bellevue location was the worst of the lot - it was in a lousy location that was not conducive to a grocery stores. The Bellevue Square folks are kidding themselves if they think that winning this lawsuit solves the broader problem with that space.

I do, however, think I know how Amazon should address the issue … and I made this point shortly after the company announced it was closing the location.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Amazon, rather than just abandoning the space, decided to do something innovative with it.

Since it has its own dedicated parking lot, they could use part of the store as an Amazon Fresh Pickup location. And they could carve out part of the space for an Amazon Books. And then they could take the rest of it and turn it into an Amazon Smart Home Store. I could imagine them mocking up various rooms of the house, and then allowing shoppers to explore ways in which they could use Amazon’s various technologies to make their lives easier, more convenient, more interesting, more, well…amazing.

It’d be a limited test … but it would be in a location where it could be easily monitored and adjusted, depending on what works and does not. It’s be like an Apple Store, but on steroids. And it might solve the lawsuit issue while doing something innovative. And it might turn a turkey of a location into a destination.