Whole Foods Market 365 opened its first store in Houston – and 10th store nationwide – to great fanfare on Aug. 22 at 101 North Loop West in Independence Heights.
Now, national media outlets have reported the company is dropping the “365” name off its smaller-format stores a month after announcing plans to discontinue its expansion of the concept.
What this means for the area’s 30,000-square foot store is uncertain. In response to a query, the Whole Foods communications department said “all 12 Whole Foods Market 365 stores are open and serving their communities” and offered no comment for a timetable on the rebranding.
However, a report by Yahoo Finance said all 365 stores would be converted into traditional Whole Foods stores by the year’s end. The report also said there would be changes in signage, product assortments and back-end distribution. Because the size of a 365 is about 10,000 square feet smaller than a regular Whole Foods, the reconfigured stores may lack meat counters.
Local management said there are still decisions to be made, but the change will offer them more flexibility in the products they offer.
Progressive Grocer said the 365 concept debuted almost four years ago and was meant to serve as “fewer-frills, value-focused chain that emphasized private label products.” The Whole Foods’ flagship store brand was named 365 Everyday Value.
Business Insider quoted Whole Foods CEO John Mackey as saying the grocer has been lowering prices at its core Whole Foods stores after they were acquired by Amazon, and that the price differences have “become less relevant” between the two stores.
To add to the mix, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon recently announced it is planning to launch its own line of grocery stores, independent of Whole Foods. The plan calls for dozens of stores across major cities, starting in Los Angeles.
Local shoppers who have become fans of the 365 store plan to continue shopping there.
“I shop at 365 regularly,” Alison Groth said. “I love the fresh produce and the healthier selections. The salad bar is outstanding as well. I like the smaller size – it makes it easy to navigate and saves me time.”
Alexis Eaton said she will probably shop there more after the change – assuming the options increase – because she can’t get everything she needs there now.
“I do like the compact design of the 365 and the no-nonsense displays,” Eaton said.
Holly Kramer said she doesn’t regularly shop at Whole Foods but goes to 365 for specific items she likes, such as the 365 brand items or vegan cheeses.
“I don’t think their prices were all that competitive, even with the Amazon Prime ‘discount’,” she said. “Still, I hope they keep the few items I go there for.”
If the upcoming conversion comes with increased prices, Jennifer Clark said she won’t go there anymore.
“I liked how 365 seemed like a Trader Joe’s, since we don’t have one close to our area,” she said.