New 'Express' Concept Part of Whole Foods' Post-acquisition Plans

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New 'Express' Concept Part of Whole Foods' Post-acquisition Plans

AUSTIN, Texas -- Now that its merger with Wild Oats is complete, supernatural chain Whole Foods Market is sharing its immediate and future plans for the Boulder, Colo. market -- which is the home base for Wild Oats -- and the Rocky Mountain region, including a new concept called "Whole Foods Market Express," which could conceivably compete with Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets on the West Coast.

Whole Foods said yesterday that the Baseline Road Wild Oats Market, an 18,500-square-foot store, will be converted to an entirely new experimental concept. The retailer did not provide an anticipated opening date, and the company did not respond to a request for further comment from Progressive Grocer yesterday.

The new convenience-focused concept will “offer a value-oriented product mix, grab-and-go offerings, and will be a practical fit for its neighborhood,” Whole Foods said in a statement. That Boulder neighborhood includes a high concentration of University of Colorado students, it added.

While Tesco has not announced any plans to enter Colorado, the retailer has said it will aggressively roll out stores in other nearby markets, including San Diego and southern California, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.

Whole Foods said that by experimenting with new store formats and re-tooling and investing in capital improvements in its existing stores, it believes it can keep all Whole Foods and Wild Oats stores in Boulder open.

“Retail square footage in Boulder for natural foods supermarkets will actually increase from pre-merger levels,” Whole Foods said. In addition, a few “old retail favorites,” Ideal Market and Alfalfa's Market, will be preserved and renewed, respectively, it noted.

Other details of Whole Foods latest plans include the following:

-- It will permanently lower prices at all 23 Wild Oats locations in the Rocky Mountain region, which spans Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Utah, Idaho and Kansas City, Missouri, so that store pricing is consistent. The lower prices will be kicked off in the next few weeks with a 10-percent-off weekend at all Wild Oats locations in the region.

-- Whole Foods has signed the lease for expanding its Pearl Street store into the current Barnes & Noble location, for what will be a 73,000-square-foot unit, making it the largest store in Colorado and one of the largest stores in the company nationally. It has a targeted opening date of late 2010.

-- Ideal Market (14,000 sq. ft.) in north Boulder will continue operations as Ideal Market under Whole Foods Market leadership. The company intends to invest in significant upgrades to the store, while preserving the “distinct flavor and personality of Ideal Market.”

-- Alfalfa's Market will return, as its new owner updates the Broadway and Arapahoe store's (21,500 sq. ft.) design while returning to its roots as Alfalfa's Market. Whole Foods said this decision is “a tribute to a retailer [we] believe was one of the early pioneers of natural grocery in the United States and at one time was the number one natural foods retail location in the country.”

-- The Wild Oats Markets' location in Superior (32,500 sq. ft.) will undergo slight renovation and will eventually change its name to Whole Foods Market.

-- The 29th Street Wild Oats Markets' location will not be opened, and Whole Foods Market will sub-lease or sell the retail space to a non-food business.