What people are saying about Whole Foods’ first 365 store

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Whole Foods Market hosted a pre-opening party in its parking lot Sunday for its first 365 store in Los Angeles suburb Silver Lake, Calif. Credit: Whole Foods Market

Austin-based Whole Foods Market debuted their first of their new line of smaller, value-driven stores today and so far, the retailer has garnered one basic necessity for a successful launch: buzz.

The retailer, in an experiment to fend off competitors and inject new life into its earnings,  opened its first 365 by Whole Foods Market at 9 a.m. Pacific time (11 a.m. local) in the Los Angeles suburb of Silver Lake, Calif.

So far, the reviews have been positive in everything from the first previews of the store to customers who slammed the new location today. Los Angeles-centric website LAist.com raved “the future is here” in a preview look of the store.

“If the San Andreas fault goes and we lose our civilization, I pray that at least the new Silver Lake 365 by Whole Foods Market will be preserved as is and fossilized like Pompeii, so someday, someone can uncover it and see what life was like for young, upwardly-mobile urbanites in 2016,” the local blog said.

Other fans also had high marks for their first visit into the store Wednesday morning as lines of customers waited for the doors to open.

Preview photos of the new store show more deals, lower shelves, a smaller curated selection of goods along with traditional, albeit smaller sections of produce, frozen goods, non-perishable goods, bakery items and alcohol. Pictures show digital efforts will have a large presence at the store, with ordering kiosks in some sections showing products and pricing.

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Digital efforts will have a strong presence in 365 stores. Credit: Whole Foods Market

The store is described as decorated in playful signage over a series of stations that include a refrigerated section of kombuchas, a cheese section, an Allegro Coffee Company and self-serve kiosk hosted by Toronto brand teaBot, where users can make their own tea blend as well as a New York-based vegan eatery called by Chloe.

Some of the preview pics show in the self-serve section a small 6-ounce container of soup selling for $3, while a 16-ounce container was $5, a small oatmeal for $2 or a large for $3 and pizza slices selling for $3 each or $5 for two slices. Pics also show some higher-priced items, such as a bottle of Veuve Clicquot luxury champagne selling for more than $40.

The opening of the first 365 by Whole Foods Market store is slated to be followed by a second store in Lake Oswego, Ore., near Portland on July 14 and a third location in Bellevue, Wash., near Seattle in August.

Company leaders have said they hope the 365 stores will help the retailer shake off its “Whole Paycheck” nickname with lower prices, while drawing millennial and older shoppers alike and injecting new life into the Whole Foods’ earnings. Whole Foods is one of Austin’s highest-profile companies, with 86,000 workers in 449 stores worldwide and about 2,500 employees in Central Texas.

To drum up excitement for the launch of its new chain, Whole Foods hosted a “Party in the Parking Lot” on Sunday that hosted free samples from suppliers, local food trucks, carnival games and live music.

“It’s been amazing. The buzz around the opening of our first store has overwhelmingly positive,” Jeff Turnas, president of 365 by Whole Foods Market, said ahead of Wednesday’s launch. “For over a year, this new concept has been taking shape and now to finally see it all come together is a wonderfully rewarding experience for everyone involved.”

Whole Foods says, it has signed 19 leases for its 365 stores, with at least 10 of those to open in 2017, including a Cedar Park location. Future store locations include several more Los Angeles suburbs, along with Houston, Evergreen Park, Ill., Cincinnati, Bloomington, Ind.; Decatur, Ga; and Gainesville, Fla.

Turnas has said the company expects a strong consumer turnout for the first 365 store opening.

“We’re expecting a great turnout with lots of smiling faces ready to shop,” Turnas said. “It will be a day of discovery – new tastes, new foods and an entirely new grocery shopping experience.”

After years as the organic foods leader, Whole Foods has seen traditional supermarkets, big-box stores and online retailers chip away at its market share.

By early 2016, Whole Foods saw its stock fall following a series of disappointing earnings reports. But this year, co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey has said, would be different, thanks to a new game plan that includes 365, among other efforts.

The 25,000- to 35,000- square-foot 365 stores will compete with the likes of Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and other smaller format brands. Whole Foods traditional stores average 40,000 to 50,000 square feet.

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