The Cycle

Whole Foods, a day later

Yesterday, Hamilton Nolan blogged about a Whole Foods’ spokesperson citing company policy about talking to the trades.

She informed me that the company has a policy of not talking to trade magazines. No trade magazines, no time, period.

She said that this was an executive decision of the company’s, because its industry is so competitive that they don’t want to reveal their closely-held secrets to the trades. And while that mostly applies to retail trades, she explained apologetically, PRWeek also falls into the category, so she can’t tell us anything except to look at its Web site.

We found it bizarre. I find it even more bizarre, considering the fact that CEO John Mackey posted his own Q&A on his blog. John Mackey became a trade magazine onto himself, and Whole Food’s competitive details are on the Internet, for anyone to see.

Trader Joe’s competes very vigorously with us on price and their sales per sq. ft. appear to be possibly greater than Whole Foods are. Whole Foods considers Trader Joe’s the national company that we have the most difficulty competing against and it is Trader Joe’s, not Wild Oats, against whom we price most aggressively.

Wegman’s operates huge stores with excellent quality of perishables and low prices and it is difficult for us to effectively compete against them. Wegman’s has frequently been rated as the top supermarket company in the United States by both consumer and trade publications. They have also routinely ranked above Whole Foods as a great place to work by Fortune Magazine. They are a very formidable competitor to us—far more formidable than Wild Oats.

We truly hope one day Whole Foods will change their no-trade-magazine policy. We will look forward to speaking to them that day. Until then, we remain baffled.

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