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Whole Foods Considers Opening Stores in Distressed Markets

When most people think of Whole Foods stores, the images that most readily come to mind are of such locations as the Time Warner Center in New York City or Legacy Place lifestyle center in Dedham, Mass. In other words, places where middle-class and upper middle-class shoppers can afford to buy groceries from a chain nicknamed "whole paycheck."

But now Whole Foods is getting more adventurous in its site selection criteria. In May, Whole Foods executives plan to break ground on a 21,000-sq.-ft. store in Midtown Detroit, in an area some publications refer to as "urban city" and others simply call "distressed."

Conscious of the neighborhoods' demographics, Whole Foods will play with its product selection in Detroit, focusing less on gourmet foods and more on necessity items.

According to a story published by Time:

Dalto said that last move will prove critical in Midtown, where the demographic mix includes plenty of 20-somethings who don't yet have the pocketbooks or palates for gourmet foods. He expects the store's selection will tilt a little more in favor of necessities and brands younger people grew up with.

“They're going to go lighter on some of the gourmet stuff … and (stock) more brand names than names nobody has heard of or things that are overly expensive,” he predicted.

And if this venture proves successful, Whole Foods will use the Detroit store as a blueprint for stores in similar locations in other cities, according to MLive.com.

We'd love to hear what our readers think about Whole Foods' attempts to make itself accessible to less affluent consumers. Will this help the chain find new avenues for growth or dilute its brand image?

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