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The supernatural chain opens smaller boxes in quest for the 1,000-store threshold.
“I’m confident we can achieve our 1,000-store goal. The question will be how quickly can we go?"
— Walter E. Robb, co-CEO
Sidebar: Whole Foods Expands Beyond the U.S.
WHOLE FOODS MARKET sees attractive growth opportunities outside the U.S. — in Canada, the United Kingdom and beyond, according to company executives.
According to Walter E. Robb, co-chief executive officer, “We have 95% of our chips in the U.S., but Canada has a 17% corporate tax rate and values as a country that are very much in alignment with ours in terms of community and the environment.
“Canada is a great place to do business, and we are doing extremely well there and we are going to continue to push there.”
John Mackey, chairman and co-CEO, said Canada represents “a billion-dollar opportunity for us.”
Whole Foods expects to open its fifth Canadian store, in Markham, just north of Toronto, in late 2013, “and we think we can open 35 or 40 stores in Canada, and maybe more,” Robb said.
The chain has stores in Vancouver and Toronto and plans to expand to Ottawa “and maybe places like Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal,” he noted.
Whole Foods opened its first store in the U.K. in 2007 in Kensington, “and I think we have finally learned some lessons from our experience there, and we have a wave of three or four more stores in development in the U.K.,” Robb said.
It relocated the Kensington store to an 18,000-square-foot space in Piccadilly Circus last May, “and to me it’s like the first time we actually have a Whole Foods-store feeling in London,” Robb said. “It took us a couple of years to get all the pieces put together, including the supply chain, and the store has been a success right out of the gate, and it’s really encouraged us to think that this store is the right size for us in London.”
Read more: Whole Foods Stock Hits All-Time High
Whole Foods has three more U.K. stores due to open, he said — in Cheltenham, Fulham and Chiswick.
Mackey said Whole Foods might expand beyond the U.S., Canada and the U.K. into a fourth country during the next decade. “But there’s not going to be any big Whole Foods march across the world because it means starting your supply chain over from scratch,” he explained.
“When you open a supermarket like Whole Foods, with 30,000 to 40,000 SKUs, you can’t just take the supply chain you have in the U.S. and transfer it to another country. You have to almost start over from scratch, so as we expand in other countries, it’s going to be a gradual creep.”