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Assignment No: 2: Case study
Submission Date by students: Before the end of Week- 11th
Weight: 5 Marks
Place of Submission: Students Grade Centre
1. Identify appropriate strategies for different situations (Lo 3.1).
2. Identify opportunities and threats as well as strengths and weakness in the operating
environment of hypothetical and real-world organizations (Lo 2.9)
3. Understand issues related to strategic competitive advantage in diversified organizations
4. Understand the contribution of various functional areas e.g. production, marketing,
purchasing and supply management to the overall well-being of the organization (Lo 1.2.)
Case Study: Whole Foods Market
Whole Foods Market is the world’s leading retailer of natural and organic foods, with 193 stores in 31
states, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
According to the company, Whole Foods Market is highly selective about what it sells, dedicated to
stringent quality standards, and committed to sustainable agriculture. It believes in a virtuous circle
entwining the food chain, human beings and Mother Earth: each is reliant upon the others through a
beautiful and delicate symbiosis. The message of preservation and sustainability are followed while
providing high-quality goods to customers and high profits to investors.
Whole Foods has grown over the years through mergers, acquisitions, and new store openings. The $565
million acquisition of its lead competitor, Wild Oats, in 2007 firmly set Whole Foods as the leader in the
natural and organic food market and led to 70 new stores. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
focused its attention on the merger on antitrust grounds. The dispute was settled in 2009, with Whole
Foods closing 32 Wild Oats stores and agreeing to sell the Wild Oats Markets brand.
Although the majority of Whole Foods’ locations are in the United States, European expansion provides
enormous potential growth due to the large population and it holds a more sophisticated organic-foods
market than the U.S. in terms of suppliers and acceptance by the public. Whole Foods targets its locations
specifically by an area’s demographics. The company targets locations where 40% or more of the
residents have a college degree as they are more likely to be aware of nutritional issues. While Whole
Foods recognizes it is only a supermarket, management is working toward fulfilling their vision within
the context of the industry. In addition to leading by example, they strive to conduct business in a manner
consistent with their mission and vision. By offering minimally processed, high-quality food, engaging
in ethical business practices, and providing a motivational, respectful work environment, the company
believes it is on the path to a sustainable future.
Whole Foods incorporates the best practices of each location back into the chain. This can be seen in the
company’s store product expansion from dry goods to perishable produce, including meats, fish, and
prepared foods. The lessons learned at one location are absorbed by all, enabling the chain to maximize
effectiveness and efficiency while offering a product line customers love. Whole Foods carries only
natural and organic products. The best tasting and most nutritious food available is found in its purest
state-unadulterated by artificial additives, sweeteners, colorings, and preservatives. Whole Foods
encourages a team-based environment allowing each store to make independent decisions regarding its
operations. Teams consist of up to 11 employees and a team leader. The team leaders typically head up
one department or another. Each store employs anywhere from 72 to 391 team members. The manager
is referred to as the “store team leader.” The “store team leader” is compensated by an Economic Value
Added (EVA) bonus and is also eligible to receive stock options. Whole Foods tries to instill a sense of
purpose among its employees and has been named for 13 consecutive years as one of the “100 Best
Companies to Work For” in America by Fortune magazine. In employee surveys, 90% of its team
members stated that they always or frequently enjoy their job. The company strives to take care of its
customers, realizing they are the “lifeblood of our business,” and the two are “interdependent on each
other.” Whole Foods’ primary objective goes beyond 100% customer satisfaction with the goal to
“delight” customers in every interaction. At the time of Whole Foods’ inception, there was almost no
competition with less than six other natural food stores in the United States. Today, the organic foods
industry is growing and Whole Foods finds itself competing hard to maintain its elite presence.
Whole Foods competes with all supermarkets. With more U.S. consumers focused on healthful eating,
environmental sustainability, and the green movement, the demand for organic and natural foods has
increased. More traditional supermarkets are now introducing “lifestyle” stores and departments to
compete directly with Whole Foods. This can be seen in the Wild Harvest section of Shaw’s, or the
“Lifestyle” stores opened by conventional grocery chain Safeway.
Whole Foods’ competitors now include big box and discount retailers who have made a foray into the
grocery business. Currently, the United States’ largest grocer is Wal-Mart. Not only does Wal-Mart
compete in the standard supermarket industry, but it has even begun offering natural and organic products
in its supercenter stores. Other discount retailers now competing in the supermarket industry include
Target, Sam’s Club, and Costco. All of these retailers offer grocery products, generally at a lower price
than what one would find at Whole Foods.
Another of Whole Foods’ key competitors is Los Angeles-based Trader Joe’s, a premium natural and
organic food market. By expanding its presence and product offerings while maintaining high quality at
low prices, Trader Joe’s has found its competitive niche. It has 215 stores, primarily on the west and east
coasts of the United States, offering upscale grocery fare such as health foods, prepared meals, organic
produce, and nutritional supplements. A low cost structure allows Trader Joe’s to offer competitive prices
while still maintaining its margins. Trader Joe’s stores have no service department and average just
10,000 square feet in store size. Whole Foods exists in a time where customers equate going green and
being environmentally friendly with enthusiasm and respect. In recent years, people began to learn about
food and the processes completed by many to produce it. Most of what they have discovered is disturbing.
Whole Foods launched a nationwide effort to trigger awareness and action to remedy the problems facing
the U.S. food system. It has decided to host 150 screenings of a 12 film series called “Let’s Retake Our
Plates,” hoping to inspire change by encouraging and educating consumers to take charge of their food
choices. Jumping on the bandwagon of the “go green” movement, Whole Foods is trying to show its
customers that it is dedicated to not only all natural foods, but to a green world and healthy people. As
more and more people become educated, the company hopes to capitalize on them as new customers.
Beyond the green movement, Whole Foods has been able to tap into a demographic that appreciates the
“trendy” theme of organic foods and all natural products. Since the store is associated with a type of
affluence, many customers shop there to show they fit into this category of upscale, educated, new age
Whole Foods has historically grown by opening new stores or acquiring stores in affluent neighborhoods
targeting the wealthier and more educated consumers. This strategy has worked in the past; however, the
continued focus on growth has been impacting existing store sales. Average weekly sales per store have
decreased over the last number of years despite the fact that overall sales have been increasing. It is likely
that this trend will continue unless Whole Foods starts to focus on growing sales within the stores it has
and not just looking to increase overall sales by opening new stores. It is also increasingly difficult to
find appropriate locations for new stores that are first and foremost in an area where there is limited
competition and also to have the store in a location that is easily accessible by both consumers and the
distribution network. Originally Whole Foods had forecast to open 29 new stores in 2010 but this has
since been revised downward to 17.
Opening up new stores or the acquisition of existing stores is also costly. The average cost to open a new
store ranges from $2 to $3 million, and it takes on average 8 to 12 months. A lot of this can be explained
by the fact that Whole Foods custom builds the stores, which reduces the efficiencies that can be gained
from the experience of having opened up many new stores previously. Opening new stores requires the
company to adapt its distribution network, information management, supply, and inventory management,
and adequately supply the new stores in a timely manner without impacting the supply to the existing
stores. As the company expands, this task increases in complexity and magnitude.
The organic and natural foods industry overall has become a more concentrated market with few larger
competitors having emerged from a more fragmented market composed of a large number of smaller
companies. Future acquisitions will be more difficult for Whole Foods as the FTC will be monitoring the
company closely to ensure that it does not violate any federal antitrust laws through the elimination of
any substantial competition within this market.
Over the last number of years there has been an increasing demand by consumers for natural and organic
foods. Sales of organic foods increased by 5.1% in 2009 despite the fact that U.S. food sales overall only
grew by 1.6%. This increase in demand and high margin availability on premium organic products led
to an increasing number of competitors moving into the organic foods industry. Conventional grocery
chains such as Safeway have remodeled stores at a rapid pace and have attempted to narrow the gap with
premium grocers like Whole Foods in terms of shopping experience, product quality, and selection of
This increase in competition can lead to the introduction of price wars where profits are eroded for both
existing competitors and new entrants alike.
Unlike low-price leaders such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods dominates because of its brand image, which
is trickier to manage and less impervious to competitive threats. As competitors start to focus on
emphasizing organic and natural foods within their own stores, the power of the Whole Foods brand will
gradually decline over time as it becomes more difficult for consumers to differentiate Whole Foods’
value proposition from that of its competitors.
1. Determine the mission statement and the vision of the company Whole Foods. (1Mark)
2. What is/are the strategy (ies) adopted by Whole Foods? (1Mark)
3. Draw the SWOT table of this company. (1Mark)
4. Explain the contribution of the various functional areas (operations, marketing, finance, HR …) to the
overall well-being of the company. (1Mark)
5. Explain the issues related to strategic competitive advantage of the company. (1Mark)
✓ Copy/paste the phrases from the text is not acceptable. You MUST use your own expressions.
✓ Using the terminology developed in the course of strategic Management will be highly valued.
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