Whole Foods UK ‘£36m in the red’

The Guardian reports today that the British operation of Whole Foods Market, which took over the old Fresh and Wild organic chain and opened up a huge supermarket in a former department store in Kensington, is £36 million in the red. The company has already closed the loss-making Bristol shop, but the Kensington shop “has been criticised for a lack of customer parking and operating a costly fish counter, out-sized and underused”.

Well, the Kensington shop has been criticised for a whole lot else, including operating a vast, wasteful buffet. It’s also in completely the wrong part of town, which is heavily congested (and is likely to become more so once the western congestion charge area is removed) and dependent on the slowest and most unreliable part of the London Underground. I suspect it would be better suited to a suburban location rather than in a neighbourhood convenient for Harrod’s and with a population wealthy enough to shop there. A lot of the fresh produce it sells is, in fact, not organic and as I’ve complained about before, it likes to play nanny by refusing to stock products such as flouridated toothpaste.

I have no idea about the financial status of its nearest rival, Planet Organic, but PO is the one place you can go for affordable vegetarian food, which isn’t so with Whole Foods at Kensington or anywhere else. Whenever I buy foods such as tofu (my aunt in particular likes tofu sausages and I buy them for her whenever I’m in London), I have a shop-around policy because sometimes, even local health food shops can be cheaper than the big London chains, where economies of scale are counteracted by prime rents. A lot of prepared organic food is very fine, but I remain unconvinced of the value of organic fresh produce.

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