WHOLE FOODS FOCUSES ON BEAUTY’S NATURAL SIDE
Byline: Faye Brookman
NEW YORK — Beauty is getting so important for Whole Foods Market that the category just got its own store.
The Austin-based natural food retailer opened both a traditional 35,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market and a 3,000-square-foot Whole Body store at Whole Foods Market on Feb. 15 here.
Although all 121 stores owned by Whole Foods — and operated under a variety of banners such as Bread & Circus and Fresh Fields — have beauty care, vitamins and nutritional supplements; this is the first to house them in a separate store.
To help inform customers about the the beauty shop’s existence, male models were set up in shower stalls in the windows using toiletries during the opening.
The two-store configuration was driven by the existing real estate in the Chelsea Mercantile Building on Seventh Avenue between 24th and 25th Streets, but company officials said the separate body store has resulted in sales that not only exceed expectations, but also surpass beauty shops within its food stores.
“People are taking their time in this store. There has been immediate acceptance of the products and many of the customers know about these items,” said Marilyn Dale, northeast region Whole Body buyer. And, during a tour of both stores, customers walk into one looking for the other — a tactic that exposes shoppers to the other store. The separate store, she added, will also serve as a laboratory to test new items and concepts for existing and future stores.
Whole Foods has set its sights on building beauty, a category with bountiful gross margins and loyal shoppers. “We helped educate consumers about eating right, now we’re teaching them about taking care of themselves,” said Dale.
Apparently, Manhattanites like to do just that. Sales have been brisk in the first four days of business of yoga merchandise such as mats, vitamins and beauty care. Customers entering the store first encounter the health-driven merchandise such as supplements and vitamins. The rear of the store is devoted to body lotions and cosmetics.
This is the first store to have a full demonstration area where companies such as Weleda are slated to perform product sampling. A sink is located near the area for shoppers to experiment with the variety of potions. All of the fixtures are elegant wood — a far cry from traditional grocery or drugstore fixturing.
According to Dale, some of the briskest-moving brands in the early days have been Burt’s Bees, Kiss My Face, Dr. Hauschka and Zum Bar. The New York store has offered Whole Foods the opportunity to experiment with new lines such as candles and body products from Pacifica, a skin care line from Greece called Korres, a vegan cosmetics line called Uber Lux and niche items like a steam kit from Honeybee Gardens. Other color lines include No Miss natural nail and lip, Ecco Bella and Gabriel Natural Color.
Other suppliers well represented include Demeter Fragrances, Essential Oil Earth, Jason, Masada, Desert Essence Annemarie Borland and Queen Helene. Whole Foods also offers a line called 365, which touts value pricing. Dale said there are opportunities for more suppliers to fill market needs. “We’re seeing a real opportunity in men’s,” she said. The store also can’t keep in stock on soaps. “New York water is hard, so people like our soaps.” Also new at the store to inspire impulse purchases are bath fizzies priced at $3.49.
Shoppers visiting the store said they were impressed with pricing. A few examples include Desert Essence tea tree oil toothpaste for $4.99 a 7-ounce tube, Demeter fragrances for $14.99, an Avalon shampoo and conditioner at $16.99 and Alba lotions for $5.99. Kiss My Face, a major supplier to the company, is donating profits of its Moisture Shave to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Kiss My Face has a permanent home on a special display area in one of the aisles for the shave product.
Throughout the store, customers are encouraged to take products for a test drive. Sampling, in fact, helped Weleda shave products become one of the fastest movers during the opening.
Dale said each Whole Foods store has many different requests for products. To that end, Whole Foods operates in a decentralized manner.
Requests in the Chelsea store have been for many more nutritional and body care products for AIDS or HIV-positive patients. “What sells in Boston doesn’t necessarily sell in New York,” added Dale. That means that Whole Foods buys for each store, a practice some suppliers said could change as Whole Foods continues to grow.
The nearby food store has a small supply of the basic health care needs. Signs in the store alert customers to the separate body store next door. And, Laurie Rocke, tri-state market coordinator, said eventually the body care side would be able to “send” products through a pneumatic tube to the food section of the store. Items in the food side include Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and Whole Foods proprietary body care products.
Whole Foods is the leader in what is being called the $230 billion “whole living” market. Sales at the company increased 23.2 percent to $1.84 billion in fiscal 2000.