Whole Foods Market is delaying the opening of several of its smaller, less expensive 365 by Whole Foods Market stores.
While only four were scheduled to open in the coming months, 18 others remained in the pipeline; the future of all of the stores is now uncertain after the announced acquisition by Amazon. One planned store in in the Evergreen Park suburb of Chicago, which was due to open in November, will likely not open until at least next year. Stores scheduled to open in Bloomington, Indiana, in August and in for Toledo, Ohio, are also both stalled.
Food Dive speculates that the fate of these less expensive stores “seems to be up in the air” as Whole Foods Market awaits the closing of its sale to Amazon, first announced last month. Industry analysts believe that the sale will drive down Whole Foods Market prices across the board, which may make the lower-priced stores redundant or unnecessary.
“It’s unclear at this point whether the sites will indeed get the go-ahead to progress as the lower-priced 365 concept as originally planned, become traditional Whole Foods stores, or something else,” reports Food Dive.
Whole Foods has little information to give developers waiting on these stores.
"Our hands are tied," Whole Foods Market spokeswoman Allison Phelps told the Chicago Tribune. "We're in an extreme quiet period."
In May, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said in the company's second quarter earnings call that two of the four 365 by Whole Foods Market stores currently in operation were not meeting expectations, but he remained optimistic about their ability to cater to shoppers who could not afford the chain's infamous "Whole Paycheck" prices.
Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton was looking forward to the less expensive store coming to his city.
"I liked the (365) concept more,” Sexton told the Tribune. “But if it ends up being a Whole Foods, so be it."
The sale of Whole Foods to Amazon is expected to be finalized later this year. Amazon will pay $42 per share in cash for Whole Foods and assume all debt when the sale goes through.
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