By JACQUELINE FERNANDEZ
SILVER LAKE — The 365 by Whole Foods store on Glendale Boulevard will celebrate its first birthday today. It was the first store to open under the 365 banner as Whole Foods Market seeks to win over millennial shoppers, shed its high-priced “Whole Paycheck” reputation and spark a corporate turnaround.
So how’s 365 doing? We checked in with the company, grocery industry observers and shoppers to find out. The results look promising but it’s still too early to tell if the concept will make a difference in Whole Food’s long-term future.
Whole Foods Likes The Results So Far
Many Silver Lake residents were disappointed when the company decided to abandon plans for a more opulent, traditional Whole Foods Market in favor of a more hip but spartan 365 store. The store has undergone changes but the format has been paying off, the company says.
“The store is doing exceptionally well,” said Kevin Kemp, a store team leader in Silver Lake. “The weekends bring really great energy to the store and we’re really a part of the community,”
Company Chief Executive Officer John Mackey, who has been under tremendous pressure to cut costs and boost profits, echoed those comments, saying the Los Angeles store is doing “amazingly well. Nearly two dozen more of the stores — including locations in North Hollywood, Long Beach and Santa Monica — are in the works, according to SuperMarket News
The company says it has made “significant improvements” since opening the first 365, said CNBC. While 365 “doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Whole Foods has,” the company likes “the profit model that 365 delivers” and “also has significantly lower capital costs,” Mackey said.
Some of the changes and improvements planned for the Silver Lake store include the opening of an olive bar and expanding some of its bakery offerings.
Some Industry Experts Remain Skeptical
Supermarket industry analyst David J. Livingston believes Whole Foods should stick with the natural foods niche instead of branching out and trying to go head-to-head in a competition with more traditional and larger chains.
“They’re not Trader Joes and they shouldn’t try to be them,” Livingston said. “I understand having one or two 365 stores, but trying to have hundreds of them isn’t going to work.”
“It’s about the stock price, all about the money, not about running a good store.”
Jana Partners, and investment firm that recently purchased a 9% stake in Whole Foods, said it wants to discuss 365 and other issues as part of an evaluation of Whole Foods operations. Even with about two dozen new stores in the works, 365 remains a small portion of the Whole Foods chain, which operates about 465 stores.
The Store Has Many Fans …. But That Parking Lot
We asked our Facebook readers to weigh in what they think about the 365 store. The results were mixed, with fans praising the quality of the produce and prices but others saying it’s not worth leaving Trader Joe’s and other markets behind.“I love it as an alternative to Whole Foods. It has MUCH better produce than Trader Joes or F&E, and is much better to navigate than a full scale Whole Foods. But is hard to find a time that it’s not busy. It happens, but it’s rare. Plus it’s nice to have this type of store close to a CVS/Rite Aid and banking.” — Catherine Eads “We call it Half Foods because of the limited selection (except for kombucha). But the deli is my go to lunch spot.” — Dave Ptach “Some stuff is cheaper at 365 than TJ’s and visa versa. I like that you can go to the 365 website and see their stock and compare prices. Trader Joe’s does tend to be my default however. Like it or not, TJ’s is an institution at this point. The farmer’s market by my work is where I get most of my produce and eggs.” — Ed Santos “I think both 365 and Trader Joe’s are great. We are really spoiled by good stores in this neighborhood. Also, 365 sells high quality, inexpensive diapers and other non-food products that are cheap and good. The prepared foods are great at 365, especially the egg salad. But Trader Joe’s has been my go-to for years so I now go to both 1-2 times a week.” — Lindsay Toczylowski “The parking lot is so hard to get in and out of. For that reason alone I do not go.” — Rebecca Short
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Jacqueline Fernandez is a Los Angeles-based reporter who’s written for various media outlets such as Los Angeles Wave, The Miami Herald and WLRN-Miami Herald News.
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