Whole Foods plans lower-price store in Toledo
Whole Foods Market has redrawn its plans for Toledo, with officials announcing this week that the company will forgo building one of its traditional markets in favor of its new value-focused concept called 365 by Whole Foods.
Company officials say the store will put more focus on Whole Foods’ house brands while eliminating some high-end items. The 365 concept also lowers overhead costs by doing away with in-house butchers and fishmongers.
“It’s still Whole Foods. It’s the same quality standards, just curated for convenience and value,” said Peter McCormack, a spokesman for the company.
Officials did not say when the Toledo location would open. The first 365 store in the country is slated to open this month in Los Angeles.
The Whole Foods model — centered around upscale offerings and dedication to organic and natural foods — has created a strong following from some consumers, but the company’s high prices have driven other shoppers away.
Experts say the new 365 stores are an attempt to address that in a way that previous price-cutting efforts failed to do.
Madeline Hurley, an analyst with IBISWorld Inc., said, “When they did try to lower prices on other items, people didn’t really notice. They had this notion in their mind that Whole Foods was ‘Whole Paycheck’ as a lot of people call it. This is a way to rebrand a little bit.”
Whole Foods announced it was coming to the Toledo market in early 2015, originally getting approval for a 40,000-square-foot store on Secor Road between Monroe Street and Central Avenue.
An amended site plan filed with the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission calls for a 30,000-square-foot 365 store with a connected 7,000-square-foot tenent space.
The company’s arrival to Toledo was seen by many as an economic development spark to that corridor. With this week’s announcement, some have wondered whether the scaled-back store will still carry the same clout.
“It certainly could impact some of these leases if the tenant has wording that specifically pertains to being next to a regular Whole Foods store. It’s different from their regular store,” said Duke Wheeler, a retail specialist with Reichle Klein Group in Toledo.
Toledo city councilman Tom Waniewski doesn’t share those concerns.
“I think we’re fortunate [that this is] a major company that is in essence adjusting their business model and we’re one of the first test cases,” he said. “Frankly, I think it’s a better business model.”
Like Whole Foods Markets, the 365 by Whole Foods stores will sell prepared food on site.
One original feature will be the Friends of 365 section, which are essentially stores within a store that are run by independent but like-minded companies.
When the company first floated the idea, it suggested possibly having tattoo parlors and record stores inside the store.
“Each store kind of has its own unique process,” Mr. McCormack said. “Some will be all local distributors, some will be larger chains. It really just depends.”
Mr. McCormack said Whole Foods hasn’t yet named vendors for the Toledo location.