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Author: CariP Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 3381  
Subject: Re: Wild Oats to close 8 stores Date: 11/15/2006 4:31 PM
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I live in Salt Lake City. Moved here after living in Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Chicago--all of which have WFMI.

I am an extreme foodie and a serious critic of grocery stores (food--growing and cooking--is the central interest in life). I helped start a cooperative grocery store in Minneapolis, and sat on its board of directors.

When I moved here, I wrote to WFMI and suggested they open a store. Why? All we have is here Wild Oats, and they can't hold a candle to WFMI. WFMI walks the walk. Wild Oats pays lip service to the theme of being a natural foods grocer, but the lack of genuineness shines through in their selection, prices, and, most clearly, in their staff's profound lack of knowledge about or interest in food. I don't consider Wild Oats very serious competition for WFMI unless Wild Oats changes the way it does business.

I don't think the big chains are much competition either. The recent culinary "revolution" preaches fresh, local, and organic. The emotional charge, the identity, of any grocery store is its produce section. A great produce section requires volume selling and good sourcing. Regular groceries like Kroger can't do either to the satisfaction of foodies. Their organic sections often look feeble and old because they have way too little volume in organics. They source the food from the biggest, most corporate, and most uninspiring growers, too--no chance of buying something local.

Cookbook sales are at an all time high. Food TV seems to be more popular than ever. If this trend becomes a permanent change in culture, I think WFMI is better positioned than any of its major competitors to expand it's market share. There are so many populous places like Salt Lake City that still don't have a WFMI. (Apparently, they just announced they will be opening a store here.)

Some markets, like San Francisco, have better stores than WFMI--I only occasionally shopped at WFMI when I lived there. But most of America has loads of people watching food TV and just waiting for a store like WFMI to join their community. I was not suprised to hear of Oats' stores closing. They closed in San Francisco when I lived there, although WFMI kept going strong and even opened two new stores, despite Trader Joe's and other great competition.
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