Will Whole Foods’ new concept, 365 by Whole Foods Market — which promises to offer cut-priced organic goods, an improved customer experience and the ability to “hang out” in the new stores — force consumers to find a new reason to resent the grocery giant?
According to Business Insider, which landed an exclusive look inside the new grocery chain concept, lower prices aren’t the only thing Whole Foods is innovating in its new 365 brand stores that are aligned to go toe-to-toe with other discount grocery chains, like Trader Joe’s, Kroger and Sprouts.
Set to open its first 365 location in Los Angeles next month, the grocery retailer will also be introducing a slew of other in-store innovations designed to make the shopping experience more scaled down but not less enjoyable.
Among the innovations is store layout. “We scaled down the look and feel of the store,” said Jeff Turnas, president of the new chain. According to Business Insider, customers will be able to see the entire store from wherever they are in the layout. “We don’t want people to be overwhelmed,” Turnas said. “We want them to immediately get the layout and not feel intimidated.” To achieve this, Whole Foods is lowering the height of all fixtures and shelving in the new 365 stores. The hope is that it makes it easier for customers to find what they need faster.
But customers who love some of the features of their current Whole Foods shouldn’t worry. There are hallmarks of the parent brand that will be kept intact in the stores’ layout, including the prepared food bar. However, instead of being on the perimeter of the store, the prepared food section will be placed in the center of the store. “Pantry” items, including beer and wine, will be located on the edges of the retail footprint.
There will also be communal dining areas in the space, as well as full-service restaurants. At the planned Los Angeles location, there is a 1,235-square-foot vegan fast-casual restaurant called By Chloe, as well as a craft-brew bar operated by Allegro Coffee Company. Turnas told Business Insider that the “hangout” factor is what will set 365 apart from its competitors. “Nobody hangs out at Trader Joe’s or Kroger,” Turnas said.
Price display is another key innovation in the chain. According to the outlet, all prices will be displayed digitally throughout the store, with no signage. This will allow 365 to update prices more dynamically and offer the absolute best price on a product to their customers.
In addition to cheaper prices and a better layout, the stores will also carry fewer items and offer a digital rewards program custom-tailored to meet personal grocery needs. Upon signing up for the program, customers will be asked to answer a few simple questions about their lifestyle and the people they buy food for, like kids. The hope is that 365 is able to deliver a more personalized experience, in addition to cost savings.
Look out, Joe — there’s a (sort of) new game in town.