Visiting New York City this past week and took a glimpse at several supermarkets in town: three were local, one was closed and one was a national chain: Whole Foods.
Founded in 1980 by Jim Mackay in Austin Texas, they are known for selling food that is organic and natural.
Yes the press has not been great ranging from being called the “Whole Paycheck” and lackluster earning reports, but they one thing going for them in New York City: A population explosion. There were people everywhere, pedestrians taking the streets, tourists flooding the town. That’s good for supermarkets, because even though the city is filled with restauarants workers and tourists like to load up on groceries, and if you are in the posh spots of the SOHO, Times Square and MidTown east you are going to run into a Whole Foods.
Just read this from the New York Times from June 30th, by Winnie Hu:
Foot traffic has slowed to a shuffle along some of the city’s most famous corridors. On Fifth Avenue, between 54th and 55th Streets, 26,831 pedestrians — enough to fill Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall combined — passed through in three hours on a weekday in May 2015, up from 20,639 the year before, according to city data.
I have lived and worked in New York City for over 30 years and know very well how crowded the city streets are and the rise in population, but it was never like this.
So how does this help Whole Foods? Simple answer is more pedestrians equals more customers. Our hotel was less than a half mile away on the east side of Manhattan and even though prices were higher in comparison to other markets all over the country you can find deals, like on Bruce Cost Ginger Ale that was 3 bottles for $5 and Stonyfield organic yogurt that was 4 for $5. The particular flavors on sale were gone, so we had to get alternative, but for the price we dealt with it.
Plus, many hotels offer small refrigerators so tourists and stock up for their stay. We overbought items that we did not use. So we overspent, which are left over. Visitors can’t recoup the cost, but the supermarkets, like Whole Foods, benefit.
Whole Foods still has issues. They have to deal with shrinkage. In fact, their was full time security staff walking the store. In addition, the aisles are narrow and the customer service was okay. It might be better in their other four locations, but it was average and young here.
The bottom line is that Whole Foods is struggling they will not go out of business. All you have to do is walk into any of their New York City locations to prove my point. I do recommend the salad bar: it is ten bucks a pound but the food was different, where you can mix healthy greens, with beets, tofu and spicy Indian food.