As a young child growing up in Austin, TX, I remember my family shopping between two competing health food stores called Sun Harvest Meadows and this little market in a strip mall on South Lamar Blvd called Whole Foods. My earliest memories were of Sun Harvests was their decent food selection but dreary appearance and poor customer service compared to Whole Foods trendy style and outgoing staff. Crafted in Austin where the city’s motto is “Keep Austin Weird,” there’s no surprise that Whole Foods would adopt the trendy feeling that the city’s vibe carries and become successful in a town where people both value their personal health as well as the health of the environment before “going green” became a popular trend. Since my gaining my lasting first impression of their first store the early 1980’s, I’ve had the ability to watch my neighborhood grocer grow into a successful distributor of natural foods to a global customer base. Becoming this successful was not by chance but the product of a leader with a sound vision, a mission statement that was more than just eye fodder and a culture that married the elements of uniqueness, respect, vision, and responsibility. When crafting the strategic road map for this company, John Mackey, cofounder and CEO of Whole Foods started with the goal in mind but had to create the running rules to march towards that future state. To help guide the company’s direction, they created the core values which are still in place today. Whole Food’s core values are:
Selling the Highest Quality Natural and Organic Products Available
Satisfying and Delighting Our Customers
Team Member Happiness and Excellence
Creating Wealth Through Profits and Growth
Caring About Our Communities and Our Environment
Creating Ongoing Win-Win Partnerships With Our Suppliers
Promoting the health of our stakeholders through healthy eating education (Thompson, Peteraf, Gamble and Strickland, 2012).
The core values were established to help guide the company towards their future state, however they still needed to identify their strategy. Mackey’s strategic vision for Whole Foods was to “become an international brand synonymous with carrying the highest quality natural and organic foods available and being the best food retailer in every community in which Whole Foods stores were located.” (Thompson et al., 2012). To achieve this goal, the company’s strategy has focused on specific chief elements: growth strategy, store location strategy, product line strategy, pricing strategy, strategic moves to control expenses, merchandising strategy. For evaluation purposes, investors and stakeholders alike can determine how well matched a company is with market conditions, called a fit test. According to Thompson et al, to qualify as a winning strategy, the strategy needs to be “well matched to industry and competitive conditions, a company’s best market opportunities, and other pertinent aspects of the business environment in which the company operates.” (Thompson et al., 2012). In the case of Whole Foods, its 30-year global quest may be proof of their strategy aligning with market conditions. Whole Foods identified a niche demographic that did not mind spending a premium to purchase farm fresh, healthy foods free of hormones and pesticides. To tap this market, Whole Foods favored store locations in “the upscale areas of urban metropolitan areas” providing a product line between 20,000 to 50,000 products including “natural, organic and gourmet foods.” (Thompson et al., 2012). Whole Foods selections included fresh produce natural and organic meats, wild-caught seafood, daily baked goods, fine cheeses, world coffees and teas, and a selection of prepared foods such as soups and salads. This selection of healthy, earth conscious foods presented in dense urban populations help to fashion Whole Foods competitive success confirming that their strategy was in alignment with market conditions. The store locations...
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