Since opening its first store in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market has found a receptive audience for its range, enabling the business to double in size every three and a half years.
According to IGD it is now the fastest- growing major US food retailer with the highest sales per square foot and the biggest profit margin. This success has ensured it has had a major impact on the US market as rival retailers have sought to incorporate elements of the Whole Foods Market offer into their own offers.
According to research from the Food Marketing Institute, 72% of new US stores include space for cooking demonstrations, 67% of US food retailers are experimenting with a premium store format, 50% with a natural and organic offer and 25% with ethnic format stores. Plans to replicate US success in the UK began with its purchase of the Fresh & Wild chain of seven stores - six in London, one in Bristol - in 2004. However, these have had little impact on the UK market with Whole Foods Market taking the decision not to re-brand them or expand the chain. The smallest outlet, located in the City of London, recently closed.
The major issue has undoubtedly been the small size of these stores. At an average of 4,000 sq ft they are significantly smaller than the company's US outlets - the 15 latest openings have weighed in at an average of 49,000 sq ft.
The former Barkers store in Kensington will be more representative of the typical Whole Foods Market outlet in the US, and is likely to be modelled on the company's store in Columbus Circus, New York.