The Problem With Whole Foods Is the Doritos It Won't Sell
When your customers start going to your competitors to purchase what you refuse to stock, it's time to rethink your plan.
I never do my food shopping at Whole Foods.
It's not that I don't like, or appreciate the store. It's a very nice store. In fact, they just re-opened one right near me that's twice the size of the original. It's got an incredible prepared food section, a couple of small eateries and a delicious coffee bar. Of course, it's also got an excellent selection of meats, fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood and baked goods too. It's all organic and natural, naturally. It's Whole Foods. Like I said, it's a very nice store. There's just one problem.
I can't buy Doritos there.
I love Doritos -- both cool ranch and nacho cheese. But unfortunately, Doritos doesn't meet the healthy food criteria of a Whole Foods. Neither do some of the other yummy foods I like to eat -- frosted flakes, Gatorade, Oreos, SpaghettiOs and Stouffer's French bread pizza (deluxe, of course). Yes, I'm probably going to die sooner than you but that's my choice and I'm good with that. It's also Whole Food's choice not to carry these "unhealthy" foods, although they carry lots of other "natural" stuff -- cereals, chips, baked goods- which, I'm sure, are just as unhealthy -- at twice the price.
Because of this I can't do a full shop at Whole Foods. I hate food shopping. I don't want to do it twice. So I avoid Whole Foods and go to my local supermarket. The vegetables may not be as fantastic, but at least I can buy a bag of Doritos there.
Apparently, I'm not alone. According to reports like this one in the Wall Street Journal, Whole Foods has been struggling of late. In the wake of increasing competition from big box stores like Costco, Safeway and Walmart (who, by the way, all sell Doritos), sales have not been meeting expectations and growth has slowed. Things have gotten to the point where the company has been forced to replace five directors on its board, naming a new chairwoman and hiring a new chief financial officer in a bid to cut costs and improve operations. They also plan a new customer loyalty program.
My recommendation: sell Doritos.
Is selling Doritos so bad? Can't Whole Foods sell Doritos and sell natural and organic products too? Can't they come up with a reasonable explanation for why they're offering both without compromising their principles? Wait a second...what principles? Isn't this just a supermarket? A business with employees and shareholders? Isn’t this just Doritos? We get it that Whole Foods is a place to go for natural and organic products. But many other chains, like the ones mentioned above, are also offering the same -- and they're cheaper. And they're beating Whole Foods.
Whole Foods needs to change. Your business may need to change too.
The businesses that stick around the longest in this world are the ones that embrace change, sometimes big change. IBM used to sell mainframe computers -- it still does, but today makes its money mostly from services. General Electric was a company that once brought together Thomas Edison's electric products, like the light bulb. Today, the company sells engines, locomotives, scanners…even financial services. Apple only sold personal computers for a number of years. In the 19th century, American Express made its money by shuttling stock and financial certificates between banks on horses. Nokia, the mobile phone giant, began its days as a rubber manufacturer. Walt Disney was once just a movie company.
These are only a few examples of giant companies that reinvented themselves to meet market needs so that they could survive and grow. Whole Foods can do the same. So can you. You might have started your business with a goal in mind, a market need to fill. But times always change and so must you. Like Whole Foods, your original idea has probably gotten a little old and the competition has crept up. Like so many others, you need to breathe new life into your business too -- develop new products, try out new services, bring in fresh blood, sell products that you may not have originally intended to sell, slowly diversify and get rid of stuff that's not making you money.
Some of these decisions may hurt. But don't let emotions get in the way. It's just a business. You have employees, shareholders and families that are depending on you to keep this business running.
So go ahead, stay true to your mission. Sell organic foods if that's what you set out to do. But consider selling Doritos too. You can diversify a little. That way you'll attract buyers like me. Your company's survival may depend on it.
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