Source: Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market is planning to close two stores and its Dartford distribution centre to “pave the way for growth here in the UK”.

The proposed closures will see the Whole Foods Market stores in both Richmond and Fulham Broadway shutter, and operations at its Dartford DC come to an end.

The move “will allow us to invest in enhancing the customer and team member experience as we expand our footprint to serve more customers and communities in the UK”, a Whole Foods spokeswoman told The Grocer.

The Amazon-owned supermarket has signed a lease for a new store on King’s Road in London’s Chelsea, which is expected to open next year, The Grocer can reveal.

The new store, located at 122 King’s Road, London, will be part of a new development at the former King’s Walk Shopping Centre. It is expected to generate 130 jobs.

The company has also hired real estate advisor Newmark to explore potential new sites for stores. “We are actively exploring new sites and look forward to opening more stores,” the spokeswoman added.

Whole Foods’ High Street Kensington store is also undergoing extensive renovations, the company said.

Whole Foods, which was bought by Amazon in 2017 in a £13bn deal, currently operates seven bricks & mortar stores in the UK, all based in London.

According to the latest accounts from Fresh & Wild – which operates Whole Foods in the UK – published in June last year for 2022, losses increased by 53% as customers traded down from its premium offering.

The accounts show operating losses of £26.3m in 2022, and a 3% fall in sales; the second consecutive year of falling demand after a 4% drop in 2021. The company said the decreased demand was “driven by higher costs caused by inflation”.

Since late last year, the retailer has been working to expand its range of “value” and lower-priced products to broaden its appeal among cash-strapped consumers.

“We are conscious in terms of developing the various price points so it is accessible to shop in Whole Foods and that you feel like you’re getting value,” Whole Foods UK director of purchasing and operation Jade Hoai told The Grocer in October.

Earlier this month, it announced it is now stocking 141 “staple” UK brands including lines from Heinz, Marmite, Ambrosia, Ben’s Original and Sharwood’s. Tropicana, Kellogg’s, Cathedral City, Colman’s, Bonne Maman and Quaker Oats are also featured.

“We are constantly reviewing our offering at Whole Foods Market to ensure we are providing our customers the best experience possible,” Hoai said at the time. “All products will be competitively priced with major retailers, allowing customers to come in-store and shop their favourite household brands and still leave with a value-led basket of quality products.”

A statutory consultation process with staff at the stores and DC due to close is expected to commence shortly. It is understood some will be offered alternative employment within the company.

Across all markets Whole Foods operates in – which also includes the US and Canada – more than 75 new stores are in development, and within the next few years the company is aiming to push that number to 100, with the ambition of opening around 30 new stores each year. The store estate currently stands at more than 530.

Many are expected to be in the retailer’s new smaller format (between 7,000 sq ft and 14,000 sq ft) called Whole Foods Market Daily Shop, a “quick-shop store format designed to provide customers in urban neighbourhoods a quick, convenient shopping experience” the company said, announcing the format earlier this month. The first will open in Manhattan, New York City later this year.

“At our new store formats, we’re tailoring every square foot to the unique, fast-paced needs of urban lifestyles,” said Christina Minardi, executive VP growth & development, Whole Foods Market and Amazon. “Expanding our footprint with Whole Foods Market Daily Shop is key to our growth, fostering deeper customer connections, and advancing our purpose to nourish people and the planet.”