The US-based retailer, recently bought by online giant Amazon, says it is planning to close its Giffnock and Cheltenham stores, although a final decision won’t be made until after a 30-day consultation period has concluded.
The two stores – one in Scotland, the other in the south-west England – are geographical outliers, located great distances from Whole Foods’ main London hub, which has made them expensive and cumbersome to service.
With an estimated 150staff members currently employed between the two stores, the closures would mean significant job losses. A company spokesperson commented: “A decision on the future of the stores will be made after the company has consulted with team members to discuss the proposal. In the event that the decision is taken to close the stores, we will work with team members to explore alternative employment opportunities.”
“I think it marks the new age from Amazon”
Industry commentators have pointed out that neither store could be serviced by Amazon’s online grocery service, due to their locations. “It makes perfect sense for Whole Foods to close both stores from a business standpoint, the logistics must be nonsensical,” commented Steve Dresser of Grocery Insight on Twitter. “I think it marks the new age from Amazon where the balance sheet is scrutinized,” he added.
The planned closures will come as a blow to UK natural and organic brands, and will leave the UK with just seven shops remaining, all of which are in London. Earlier bold talk of Whole Foods spreading nationwide, and of other specialists – like Planet Organic – breaking out of London seems an increasingly unlikely prospect.
Consumers within the communities affected by the closures have spoken out; at the time of publishing, an online petition hosted on change.org had gathered 220 signatures against the closure of the Giffnock store – Scotland’s only Whole Foods Market.