Blog: Dean BestWhole Foods in a hole

Dean Best | 5 August 2008

As in the UK, there are signs that the more upmarket retailers in the US are coming under increasing pressure.

Marks & Spencer's problems in the UK are well-documented and, despite enjoying relative success, local rival Waitrose has made moves to publicise the fact that it too can do value.

Across the pond, natural and organics retailer Whole Foods Market has built a nationwide business on the back of growing demand for its wares.

That demand, however, has weakened in recent months amid the credit crunch, leaving Whole Foods fighting to throw off its nickname of 'Whole Paycheque'.

An article in the New York Times over the weekend highlighted how Whole Foods is trying to convince US consumers on a budget that they can find value in its stores.

“I'm getting a little tired of that tag around our neck,” Whole Foods co-president Walter Robb told the newspaper, referring to the Whole Paycheque moniker. “We are a lot more competitive than people give us credit for. We challenge anyone on like items.”

One challenge facing Whole Foods in the battle for price-conscious Americans could reach the courtroom after it emerged Ahold-owned chain Stop & Shop has filed a lawsuit claiming copyright violation.

Stop & Shop has accused Whole Foods of mimicking its 'Real Deal' campaign advertising a swathe of price cuts at its stores.

With its merger with Wild Oats also under a legal cloud and its UK unit posting an operating loss Whole Foods is clearly facing challenges on multiple fronts.


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