Commentary

Whole Foods 365 Mulls, 'Would You Like A Tat With Those Taters?'

In an interview on Bloomberg TV last week, Whole Foods’ co-CEO Walter Robb talked about broadening the appeal of the chain to Millennials with its smaller 365 by Whole Foods Market shops, the first of which is scheduled to open in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles in May. 

“There’s a number of smaller-store competitors out there that are doing a nice job,” Robb said. “We don’t see any reason why we can’t go participate in that part of the market as well with our 365 by Whole Foods offer — it’s going to be unique.”

In covering the six-minute chat, which was laden with a lot of retailer jargon, Bloomberg’s Leslie Patton points to the “Friends of 365” program that solicits outside vendors to set up shops within the shop and on its outdoor patios. 

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Here’s what more-engaging-than-the-co-CEO copy on the website has to say:

“We like to mix things up. Friends of 365 may be any type of business — from food and drinks to fashion, body care products, services, and more. (Record shop? Tattoo parlor? Maybe!) And each 365 store may have a different mix of friends. The more variety, the merrier!”

Amazing what the mere mention of a tat can do.

“Whole Foods’ push to be cool is a response to a slight 1.8% dip in same-store sales with Millennials. The decline isn’t too surprising, considering young, budget-conscious shoppers can easily find their kale and quinoa at cheaper, similarly health-oriented grocery stores like Trader Joe’s,” writes a skeptical Christian Gollayan for the New York Post.

“After all, can you remember the last time you needed a dozen free-range eggs and a new tattoo?” Gollayan concludes.

A Whole Foods spokeswoman tells the Los Angeles Times’ Samantha Masunaga that that the company has not yet announced any “Friends.” But Burt Flickinger III, managing director of consulting firm Strategic Resource Group, suggests to her that tattoos may not be the best way to reach Millennials.

“Whole Foods stands for health and wellness,” Flickinger says. “Inking typically does not epitomize health and wellness.”

Writing for CBS News Money Watch blog, Aimee Picchi points out that “rivals such as Trader Joe's have been taking share from Whole Foods as consumers seek out cheaper options. Millennials, of course, are by and large even more budget-constrained than older generations, given that millions are struggling to pay back student loans while starting out their careers.”

Why, then, would Whole Foods be in such hot pursuit of the Millennial market — the 92 million people born between 1980 and 2000 by Goldman Sachs’ reckoning, asks Corey Fedde in the Christian Science Monitor. Well, that’s exactly why — “it’s a big one.”

“Millennials are poised to reshape the economy; their unique experiences will change the ways we buy and sell, forcing companies to examine how they do business for decades to come,” according to a Goldman Sachs infographic on the generation cited by Fedde.

That Goldman Sachs infographic also makes the point that “the must-haves for previous generations aren’t as important for Millennials. They’re putting off major purchases — or avoiding them entirely.”

Not so tattoos.

And as Jake Novak suggested in a commentary for CNBC a while back, the very fact that “Millennials are much more likely to have one or more tattoos than any other generation, and did you really need a survey to tell you?” is itself evidence that they “are not shrinking from every shot and every commitment” after all.

“The stats don't lie,” he writes. “Millennials may not be as in to homes, cars, and jobs, but they are all-in when it comes to the lifetime commitment of tattoos.” They’re costly to acquire, and even costlier to remove.

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