I love Whole Foods, Wild Oats, PCC, etc, but I'm sure you have noticed can very expensive to buy Organic from Whole Foods. In addition, Whole Foods and Wild Oats were two of the only national chains and for a while, were able to command higher prices. While there expansion has not been as aggressive as Boston Market, I think Whole Foods may have taken their situation for granted. I've told Ferbit that it's only a matter of time before the supermarkets begin to expand their organic sections. Plus, smaller stores like Trader Joes will begin to carry more organic foods to enter this hot market. I'm sure jitters about new competition is why Whole Foods stock isn't performing that well.
This article from CNN/Money is a further example of what I have been talking about. Publix, a large chain in the south is opening a smaller sized chain store called GreenWise. Even though it is a separate store, it can still leverage the strong buying power, shipping, and warehousing of Publix.
I would really like to see Whole Foods succeed and believe they made a great decision merging with Wild Oats. It was really funny to see people arguing during the merger that these two companies would form a "monopoly" in the organic foods market. Whatever!!
As Whole Foods grows, one thing that concerns me is the amount of money they put into their new stores in order to be green. It's great to be green to help the environment and save energy costs, but at some point it can get a bit obnoxious and waste unnecessary expenses. They also have a practice of paying more for stock items, because they want to make sure the supplier makes more money. It's really dangerous to set alternative prices (price floors) against the free market, even in the organic/local market.
Here are a few quotes from the article that says it all…
"Prices really draw in consumers. Most consumers can't go out and spend their whole paycheck on natural products," she said.
In recent years, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), Safeway Inc. (SWY), Albertson's and other big supermarket chains have also expanded their organic offerings and other smaller supermarket chains including Kroger Co. (KR), Lund Food Holdings Inc. and Hannaford have become certified organic retailers.
"I can't wait," said Kim Jones, 40, of Jupiter, who only buys organic and often shops at both Publix and Whole Foods. "It will be nice to have one-stop shopping at GreenWise and hopefully their prices will be more competitive than Whole Foods."