Whole Foods Gambles on Education

“When the Landlord broke the fourth and final seal, a ravenous horse emerged; and he who sat on it had the name Whole Foods; and Urban Outfitters was with him. Authority was given to them over the remaining area, to kill with overpriced chicken breast and with Vampire Weekend vinyls and with alpine-style cheeses and by the small dogs of the purse.” — Zain Khalid

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What started as a small grocery store in Austin, Texas has developed into a nationwide organization encompassing over 400 locations across 50 states. The Whole Foods brand has grown to symbolize more than just the healthy, organic products it sells. Thanks largely to marketing, the media and word of mouth Whole Foods has since grown into a symbol of urban renewal in cities and communities that are seeking a fresh appearance.

The “Whole Foods Effect” is a term used to describe the way Whole Foods acts as an anchor of development in a community. The Whole Foods on P Street in Washington D.C. is one of over 400 examples of how Whole Foods markets tend to positively effect communities. After Whole Foods built the market on P Street, the empty lots surrounding the new market quickly garnered developer’s attention and now house small boutique shops, a music hall and of course Starbucks. The effect Whole Foods had on this community is not unique from its other expansion, as it continues to raise the average percent of property appreciation in communities by about 33%.

The positive effects that typically follow the grocery chain can be traced back to the attributes and features that already existed in the community. If anything Whole Foods has succeeded in consistently picking out neighborhoods and communities that are currently experiencing urban renewal. Part of Whole Foods success can be attributed to its innovative expansion strategy. Rather than surveying an area or a community by the average income of its residents, Whole Foods seeks an educated community. An ideal candidate community for Whole Foods would be a location containing a community of 200,000 college-educated people. This unique strategy differs greatly from normal business practices, and in turn could be an explanation as to why Whole Foods seems to have a positive affect on communities.

The jury is still out on if communities are prospering and thriving because of Whole Foods or if it is the community itself that causes it; but I guess it never hurt anyone to have an additional healthy organic market in a community.

-Anthony

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