Whole Foods does not realize the supermarket is dying

Whole Foods’ Misguided Play for Millennials
[Via HarvardBusiness.org]

The news that Whole Foods will open a separate chain of stores designed to appeal to millennials stopped me mid-aisle. According to Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb, these future stores will feature “modern, streamlined design, innovative technology, and a curated selection” of lower-priced organic and natural foods.

As millennials would write—facepalm.

My dismay is not about the concept. After all, who wouldn’t love to shop for lower-priced, organic, and natural foods in a store that boasts a clean and modern design?  My dismay is about how this new chain is being communicated to the public and designed to win in the marketplace.

By describing this new concept as “geared toward millennial shoppers,” Whole Foods is essentially saying one (or both) of the following:

  1. Gen X and Baby Boomer shoppers are fine with or even prefer old, cluttered stores that sell a confusing array of stuff at high prices.
  2. We (Whole Foods) need to create new stores because our current ones are old and cluttered and sell all sorts of poorly organized stuff at high prices.


Supermarkets as we know them are going to disappear.We will not need one stop shopping for all our staples and other food products.

At least not one we traverse ourselves in person. When we do go out, it will be to smaller, more personal stores.

How do I know? I’ve been using Amazon Fresh for the last few months. It is a well stocked grocery store that can deliver my goods to the front door almost anytime I want.

Like before I wake up.

It remembers previous purchases, so I can easily select the things I want. Delivery is free with at least $50 purchase. Instead of making one large trip to the supermarket each week, I can order a couple of times a week from Amazon Fresh.

All while I am at home and can see just what I need. And the prices are the same or cheaper on almost every thing I checked. The selection is good and getting better.

I find I really only need to go to the supermarket occasionally to get fresh produce – Amazon Fresh has them but I still like picking out my own. And fresh meats.

I’ve tried ordering things like chicken breasts from Amazon Fresh but when it comes to something like this, I;d rather see the entire selection and make my choice.

So really all I need is a good farmers market and a good butcher.

What happens to Whole Foods’ great idea when Amazon simply includes the wonderful organic foods at Amazon Fresh?

Amazon Fresh is not everywhere yet. But I expect Amazon is working on that.

And Amazon has made some missteps with membership pricing that may hamper its acceptance.

But someone will get this right. Or supermarkets themselves will get into the act.

I expect that the major way people will get their groceries in a few years will be home delivery. Large boutique stores would seem to a relic.

Especially if the home delivery service can also access the same organic markets.

Give me access to a good butcher or fresh produce and I would not need a supermarket.

Image: Sean Gregor

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