I recently came across an article in Bloomberg online by Joel Stein titled: “Whole Foods is Getting Killed by Aldi. Is a Millennial Grocery Chain the Fix?” The article discusses how Whole Foods has created the supermarket 365 By Whole Foods Market in Silver Lake, Ca near Los Angeles. It looks like it will attempt to appeal to millennials.
Mr. Stein was curious to see how millennials shopped for food; apparently 40 percent don’t eat cereal because its messy per market researcher Mintel. Based on the article it showed that customers should not feel pressure to purchase food and groceries, just embrace the experience.
The company has bee weighted down by bad press, such as being known as the “Whole Paycheck” stigma because of their high prices and its stock price has been dragged down by poor earnings reports.
Plus throw in competition by Aldi, Trader Joes, Kroger, Publix, etc. and you can understand why they have major problems.
Is there a way to dig out of this PR hole? Maybe. I think it should start with focusing on the customer, asking them what they want and delivering it. They should also focus on developing their employees too. And since they have more fresh food than other supermarkets, cut back on orders: shelf space is not as long for a container of yogurt compared to a can of low sodium of black beans. Tossing away product hurts the bottom line and puts pressure to jack up prices and makes the customers pay more.
Regardless if you are a Gen-X like me or a millennial, customers want to feel like they are being treated well to their needs; not the apparent needs of the supermarket. You don’t need focus groups, or surveys. Instead, just ask the customers why they shop there. And by the way, remember their name too. Doing the simple, little things mean a lot and I like Whole Foods being in New York City when I visit. In fact I am relieved to see a supermarket in the east side midtown Manhattan to get a better deal on groceries compared to shopping at Duane Reade or CVS.
The story how Whole Foods got started in 1980 by Johan and Renee Mackey Austin is worth telling again. From almost losing their business and merchandise out of their home to what they have become today is memorable.
Customers don’t like facts; they remember stories. Customers like and need food. Make them enjoy the experience.