Whole Foods seeks to custom-tailor proposed Frisco store
May 13, 2012
Walk into Whole Foods Market and breathe in the smell of freshly cut flowers and strawberries.
The focal point of the natural grocer – which plans to come to Frisco and if all goes according to plan, will open its doors in 2014 – is its produce.
Only the best produce gets sold in any of Whole Foods’ more than 300 stores, said Ben Friedland, Rocky Mountain Region marketing coordinator, who formerly served as Copper Mountain’s director of marketing.
“Our best marketing vehicle is the produce quality,” Friedland said, explaining that all producers have different grades of product. “It may not be the cheapest, but it has the highest value. Cheap food is cheap. … We are incredibly competitive in value.”
Which could be what keeps Dillon’s Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage afloat when Whole Foods moves into Frisco.
“We think that by adding Whole Foods to the Summit County marketplace it will increase the overall demand for natural foods in Summit County and expand the number of people shopping for natural foods and that in the long run it will be beneficial for our business,” said Kemper Islely, a family owner and co-president of Vitamin Cottage. “We will continue to focus on being a customer service-driven business offering affordable priced products that do not contain artificial ingredients to the residents of Summit County.”
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Islely touted the store’s existing substantial share of the natural foods market, sales of USDA-certified organic produce, larger supplement department, a small, easy-to- shop store and the on-staff nutritional health coach as current practices that could continue to set Natural Grocers apart from Whole Foods when it arrives.
Alpine Market and Deli owner Tom Hallin did not respond to a call for comment.
Perhaps Whole Foods’ signature is its quality produce and seafood that’s flown in within 24-36 hours of the catch, but that may be where the similarities stop between structures. Each equipped with its own marketing director and graphic artist and largely operating as its own entity within the corporate whole, the stores vary in appearance and feel. The 18,000-square-foot North Boulder store, called Ideal Market, has a hipster trendy feel that wouldn’t make sense anywhere but in that shopping center. The 70,000-square-foot Pearl Street store is a flagship store and has been catered to the downtown Boulder community, from its decor to its product to its prepared food offerings.
The Frisco store will be more like 33,000 square feet, according to preliminary documents released to investors in February.
“We will build a store that’s custom-tailored to Frisco,” Friedland said, adding that the goal for each store is to be a “hub for the community. Food is about gathering. It’s about celebrating. … We’re so much more than food.”
Which is why stores invite the public in to partake in events like farm-to-table samples, healthy eating classes and concerts. Local artists tend to help with each store’s decor, and community stakeholders are brought in to help advise Whole Foods professionals on what’s important to the community, from the type of products sold to incorporating local items. Local producers even get their own marketing push in June through September, when their products appear in the stores, to encourage people to buy. And typically, vendors appear in store to hand out samples and encourage buying more product.
Other components, like a dog hitching post and watering station, could be part of the Frisco store, as could bike racks and ski racks. On Pearl Street, a dog biscuit vending machine reads, “All proceeds go to the Humane Society of Boulder.”
That’s not the only place Whole Foods gets involved in the community. For each reusable bag that comes in, customers get a 10-cent credit in the Small Change Adds Up program. They can opt to apply that toward groceries or toward a school-based cause.
Quarterly, Whole Foods selects a nonprofit to benefit from 5 percent of sales on a given day. The nonprofit receives support and Whole Foods could get a new customer, Friedland said. A win-win. And in some cases, they look for win-win-win situations, in which local products are sold, attracting and benefiting new customers at the same time small farmers and producers benefit from a stable market.
These programs, as well as the Whole Planet Foundation, which provides business loans to women in third-world countries, are all based on co-founder and CEO John Mackey’s philosophy of “conscious capital” or, ” a rising tide floats all boats,” Friedland said. The idea is to make a profit and use it to benefit the community.
“Our job is not to sell groceries. Our job is to inspire people to do more,” Friedland said. “We are an active piece of the social fabric.”
Prepared foods are among the most popular offerings of Whole Foods lovers. Fruit is cut fresh and packaged that day – also meaning a higher price tag – and each store has an olive bar, salad bar, and prepared foods section.
Friedland said the Frisco store wouldn’t be built without a bakery, a sushi counter and the olive and salad bars. Pizza and sandwiches will be standard, Friedland guessed, as might a trail mix bar (where one can create his or her own trail mix), if there’s room.
Friedland isn’t sure how much fuel costs will be reflected in food prices at the Frisco Whole Foods Market, and looks to the Aug. 15 opening of the Basalt store as an indicator of the effect.
However, there are 1,500 to 2,000 items on sale in the Pearl Street store every other week, and the sales flyer and The Whole Deal booklet help highlight those deals, helping with tips on saving money and cooking – and helping make the Whole Foods experience an affordable one.
Friedland said the company has been working to diffuse the “whole paycheck” connotation that’s arisen around the store – implying that consumers spend their entire paycheck on groceries there.
“We never said we wanted to be the cheapest in the business,” though, Friedland added.
Each store has a story, as do the products sold inside – that’s part of what adds value for consumers.
There’s a story behind much of the food that Whole Foods sells. From the local producers to how the fish is caught and processed. From the rating system behind the meats to how Whole Foods manages its contracts with each grower.
From the bananas, whose proceeds go back to the community where they’re grown to support agriculture education at Earth University for youth who live there to the third-party groups Whole Foods either started or works with to ensure quality products.
“We really want to be (in Frisco) and we are really looking forward to it,” Friedland said.