The new Los Angeles grocery, Whole Foods' first in more than a dozen 365-branded stores the company is planning, has plenty of other eye-candy, which might prompt some millennials to get snap happy on Instagram.
The 28,000-square foot store, located in the hipster mecca of Silver Lake, is stocked with vegan meat substitutes, fake cheeses, craft coffees, cold-press juices, and hormone- and antibiotic-free meats. One wall is painted with the words "Silver Kale," presumably to remind shoppers of their location and that they should stock up on kale.
Whole Foods is rolling out the chain to appeal to millennials and the budget-conscious, with promises not only to offer hipster-friendly foods but lower-cost items. The 365 store sells many fruit and vegetables by the item, rather than by the pound, which may help some shoppers who are single and wary of buying too much, for instance. The store is also rolling out a new loyalty program that's completely digital, offers "buy 10 and get one free" on shoppers' favorite items and includes "Yay for You!" sale prices on some items.
Whether the concept is enough to boost Whole Foods' sagging stock price and declining sales remains a big question. Millennials may now rank as America's biggest generation, but they tend to have less money than older workers and are struggling to pay back student loans while starting out their career. On top of that, younger shoppers also aren't crazy about big grocery store chains, preferring quirkier, specialty food stores or even deep-discount shops like dollar stores, according to market research.
"It remains to be seen how customers will engage with this brand, the degree to which it will broaden Whole Foods' appeal enterprisewide," wrote John Heinbockel of Guggenheim Securities in a research note earlier this month. "Given the initial modest size of the chain, it is unlikely to move the sales dial for some time."
Whole Foods has signed leases for 16 stores with the 365 brand. A second store, located in Lake Oswego, Oregon, will open in July and a third location in Bellevue, Washington will open in September.
Earlier this year, the company said it was considering adding tattoo parlors to the 365 line as well as other vendors. While the Silver Lake store doesn't have a place to get inked, it does have some mini-stores, including an espresso bar, a vegan restaurant and a self-serve tea station where customers weaned on personalization can blend their own brews.
One early review in the local L.A. publication LAist wondered if the store might become a neighborhood icon. It added that if the store became "fossilized like Pompeii," future Americans might "see what life was like for young, upwardly mobile urbanites in 2016."
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