Whole Foods‘ co-CEO confirms that the retailer plans to eventually operate as many as 40 Canadian locations, up from its current 10 stores. The company recently disclosed five new locations, and a Calgary store will be announced shortly. Whole Foods will eventually operate locations coast-to-coast, though it will face increased competition from several homegrown retailers.
Whole Foods’ co-CEO, Walter Robb, says that the company is looking to add a further 30 stores in Canada. Its first location outside of metro Vancouver and Toronto opened last week in Ottawa. The highly anticipated 41,000 square foot store is located in an inner-city retail complex called Lansdowne Park, adjacent to highly educated, high-earning neighbourhoods such as The Glebe.
Whole Foods entered the Canadian market in 2002 with a 40,000 square foot location at Toronto’s Hazelton Lanes, in the city’s upscale Yorkville area. Since then, four more stores have opened in the Greater Toronto Area. In 2007 Whole Foods bought the parent company of Vancouver-based grocery store Capers, paving the way for four Vancouver Whole Foods locations. The company has already provided some details on its Canadian store expansion, confirming new locations each in Toronto and Vancouver. According to Mr. Robb, the company’s first Alberta location is confirmed to open in Calgary, with details to be disclosed shortly.
The retailer has tremendous opportunity to open stores in various Canadian cities. In oil rich Alberta, for example, an Edmonton location is almost a certainty. Winnipeg is ripe for at least one Whole Foods location, and rumours are running rampant that a Victoria, BC location is currently in the works. Expansion into Quebec is uncertain, we’re told, as the likelihood of store unionization could eat into profits. Real estate brokerage Northwest Atlantic is handling Whole Foods’ Canadian store expansion, except for those located in British Columbia.
Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, natural and organic supermarket chain Whole Foods currently operates 403 stores throughout the world, including 384 American stores and nine in the United Kingdom. The company employs about 87,000 people and last year had sales of U.S. $14.2 billion. Stores sell an average of almost U.S. $1,000 per square foot – higher than most grocery chains, though still less than organic grocer Trader Joe’s, which sees sales of almost U.S. $1,750 per square foot.
Whole Foods will face competition from a variety of upscale Canadian grocers, including Urban Fare in Western Canada and Pusateri’s in Ontario. Vancouver-based Urban Fare is in the process of expanding its store base, including the announcement of its first Calgary location. Upscale Toronto-based Pusateri’s will open next year in Oakville, Ontario, and the company will also operate Saks Fifth Avenue’s luxury food halls, each expected to measure about 25,000 square feet. As mainstream grocers such as Loblaw and Sobeys continue to add organic food items to their stores, Whole Foods will see competition from a variety of local grocery stores, not to mention smaller competitors and food offerings in big-box retailers Costco, Walmart and Target.