In the last two days, there have been a couple of really good news stories about things at Whole Foods. I know that Whole Foods nearly has its own orbit in the retail universe and that how things go for Whole Foods can be quite different from how things go for the bulk of the retailing world. However, positive financial signs at Whole Foods may be indicators of how consumers are feeling about spending money on natural products.
The first story that caught my eye was on a blog - Natural Specialty Foods Memo - and referred to the investment that Ron Burkle made in Whole Foods about a year ago. Burkel bought about a 7% stake in Whole Foods. Burkle's investment has tripled over the past year! (You can read the whole blog post and a lot more detail here - tinyurl.com/ydduoos)
To be thorough, Whole Foods earnings are up 79% - and sales are up 7%. Whole Foods has obviously done some serious work controlling its costs to have this huge an increase in earnings. What "macro lessons" we take from the increases in sales, which do deserve some serious attention, has to taken in context with the obvious efforts that their national, regional, and store management teams have made.
The second story, which I saw this morning, referred solely to sales at Whole Foods. The article, on www.bnet.com, openly speculates about Whole Foods turning the corner on the recession as its comparable store sale are showing a 3.5% increase and its same store sales are showing a 2.5% increase. (The whole article - tinyurl.com/yfv79j3) Many good things that Whole Foods has done are explored - but the underlying thought process is that consumers are willing to spend more for healthy foods again.
Last week I was at a show, primarily attended by indepedent retailers, in central Florida. The last show for independents that I went to in late 2009 was also in central Florida. The mood was marketly different.
Independent retailers are an amazing group of people! They are passionate, positive and visionary. The believe in what they sell, whom they serve, and where they are going! They are tough people to "trap" into saying something negative - it is just not in their nature.
When I say that the mood was different in December, I am not saying that it was negative - but it was cautionary; optimistic, but tempered with the reality of where the country was economically.
The mood last week was "up" - growth, expansion, opportunity was on a lot of minds and a lot of lips! I talked to more people about new stores, expansion, and increases than I could hope to recount fully.
The highlight was a visit with one retailer from Tampa whose business has grown so much that he is having to have staff help with the traffic in his parking lot - daily! Having to put staff on parking lot duty - now that's a problem that is good to have!
I hope that the good news from Whole Foods, along with the glimpses that I got into some independents, are signs that the hardest times are behind us (at least for a while) and that smoother sailing is upon us!
Somewhat related - I will be emceeing an incredible education program at Expo West in Anaheim in a few weeks. From 3 PM to 6 PM on Saturday, a panel of experts will be presenting a seminar/workshop called the "Retailer Tool Box." If you are new to natural products retailing, or maybe just want to pick up some pointers, you ought to check this out!
Delicious Living magazine also has me doing a presentation at Expo West - "How To Dot Your T's Without Crossing Your Eyes." It is a fun seminar dealing with development of leadership and management in your store. It is Friday at 1 PM
For anything that you want to learn about Expo West check out - www.expowest.com