Posted by: David Kiley on August 29, 2007
Whole Foods, aka “Whole Paycheck,” has been a success for a variety of reasons. The emphasis on organic foods. A terrific produce section. A convenient and well-chosen wine section. The prepared foods, while expensive, are certainly a few steps above what one finds at Kroger or the A&P.
Until now, one of the other draws for the Kiley family has been the absence of a lot of licensed character clutter that we would just as soon not reinforce with our five-year-old son. On a recent shopping trip, though, we found kid’s lunch boxes and plastic plates/cups/bowls with Disney and Nickelodeon characters. Spiderman, Shrek, Mickey Mouse, Dora and Diego, The Backyardigans, Disney Princesses and Sponge Bob. The cereal aisle has been mostly devoid of licensed characters. But even that oasis has been infiltrated by Clifford The Big Red Dog on Cascadian Farms cereal.
The bloom is definitely off the Whole Foods rose with a share price that has tanked in the last year and the revelations that founder and CEO John Mackey was childishly posting anonymous posts about WF and Wild Oats to Internet investor boards. A Judge somewhat surprisingly, greenlighted WF’s acquisition of Wild Oats despite Mackey’s baldfaced writings that he was acquiring the rival chain specifically to better control prices in the markets where they competed.
I doubt that we will much curtail our spending at Whole Foods. Food quality is very important to us, and WF overall has it all over the other supermarkets in our area. Indeed, a second jumbo store is planned for Ann Arbor much closer to our home. But it is sad to see a business and brand move into perhaps a new era of leaving some of the nicer attributes of its stores behind. It was sadder still to have an e-mail to the manager of thr Ann Arbor store, relating our chagrin over all the licensed characters, ignored. WF also touts its responsiveness to customers. Perhaps success really does breed contempt.