Good retail bad retail no.4–16 October 2017

This week I’ll share the good and the less good from a recent trip to Whole Foods in Richmond (SW London). I was keen to visit given the Amazon acquisition to see what had changed and if there was a noticeable difference in customer experience.

Good retail

Whole Foods does seasonal product well and Halloween really plays to its strengths and US heritage. Interest in Halloween in the UK has grown significantly in the last few years and retailers have been tapping into this with varying levels of success. The striking display if pumpkins outside the store left no debate — this is a retailer that is taking Halloween seriously, and the pumpkins were complemented by a strong product range just inside the door of entertainment and gifting foods.

Another angle I really like about Whole Foods is the experiential side. We hear so much about this in terms of bringing customers to stores, but few retailers manage to do it well. I was impressed with the calibre of events on offer and would have liked to have seen them featured in more prominent positions around the store. Some creative fun could be had here with user generated content and images of events around specific food groups. Also as a planner, I would love to know what’s happening in November and December too.

Bad retail

The famously reduced avocados are still a feature — and reduced by a further 9p according to the signage. (Why are Whole Foods’ promo prices yellow or orange? Since when were these the colours to signal promos to customers rather than red?)

I don’t think the average Whole Foods customer is going to care about this kind of price reduction. If you’re shopping in Whole Foods you’re probably not counting every last 9p. And if you know anything about avocado pricing (which I happen to), you will know that £1.00 to £1.20 is the going rate in most UK supermarkets, including Waitrose, which is probably Whole Foods’ closest competitor in terms of customer demographic. So all that’s happened is the Whole Foods price has come down to the top end of the market price.

Similarly I was astonished to see the sea of promotional prices in the chocolate aisle, including the rather ugly piece of vinyl on the floor shown in this picture:

Surely there are better ways to celebrate Chocolate week!

Tastings, value add promos, new launches, limited edition products, really incredible high end products just off the top of my head.

Customers do not come to Whole Foods looking for a bargain. Nor are they foolish enough to be taken in by these false promos when a typical basket will still end up more expensive than elsewhere — yellow tickets or no yellow tickets. Whole Foods should focus on quality, range, service and store experience. OR adopt a completely different price driven strategy — which needs to be accompanied by other changes in store.

Not sure if good or bad retail…yet

There is a giant Amazon locker by the exit to the store. I know this has been in situ for a while as I had popped in a few weeks back but didn’t have time to take any photos. Whilst I think the locker is an idea with great potential to drive footfall and cross sell across both brands, I haven’t seen anyone interact with it yet, and it does take up a large amount of real estate. Also, its position means that a customer could walk into the store via the exit without seeing anything of the Whole Foods proposition. So I would have located it further into the store and surrounded it with accessible (i.e. popular / seasonal) product to reap more cross sell benefits. And finally — check out the juxtaposition of branding (style, fonts, colours) below — a bit confusing to customers.

In conclusion, there appear to be limited changes to this particular Whole Foods as a result of the Amazon acquisition. However those that are apparent in store don’t — to my mind — seem to be quite right for the customer experience for Whole Foods as a standalone business. I’m sure there’s a well thought through master plan from Amazon as to how these changes really benefit the whole business — time will tell…

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