Whole Foods is planning to triple its store count to 1,000 and drive sales by opening locations in underserved areas and smaller markets, seeking opportunity in food deserts where finding fresh fruits and vegetables is a challenge, Bloomberg reported.
“We’re accelerating growth,” Walter Robb, the chain’s co-CEO told Bloomberg. “That’s going to take us places we have not been to before.”
Whole Foods is preparing to open a Detroit, Mich. store in May. The Detroit store is to be located in the Midtown neighborhood near Wayne State University and the College for Creative Studies, in line with Whole Foods’ strategy to open units in areas with educated populations.
But not everyone is optimistic about its chances for success. Jack Horst, a partner at Kurt Salmon, a consulting firm questioned, “How successful are you going to be when you’re in a neighborhood that skews toward more middle-class or to people who shop more at a Save-A-Lot? Maybe they don’t need five different kinds of kale.”
The company has also been talking to the mayors of Chicago and Newark about opening in areas with few or no grocery stores, Robb said, noted Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to bring more food options to the south side of Chicago.
Whole Foods is also planning to open more stores in smaller markets with populations around 75,000. The company recently opened locations in Glen Mills, Pa.; West Des Moines, Iowa; and is looking at Wichita, Kan. as a possible location.
The units opening in these areas are smaller stores feature a more limited number of options compared to the usual Whole Foods store. “Instead of having an eight-foot rice section, you might have a four-foot rice section, maybe just a few less varieties,” Rob told Bloomberg.
Whole Foods is also looking to open more locations in cities where it’s already thriving, such as Chicago or Boston or Los Angeles or San Francisco.
The company may open stores as small as 15,000 square feet and as big as 75,000 square feet, according to company filings.