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AUSTIN, Texas -- Whole Foods Market said Friday it plans to open a 75,000-square-foot flagship store on central London's Kensington High Street in early 2007. It'll be the super-natural chain's first store outside of North America.
"The U.K. is an obvious first choice, due to the advanced acceptance of organic foods and the lack of a language barrier,"said Whole Foods Market chairman and c.e.o. John Mackey in a statement. "We believe this spacious urban location positions us to duplicate the tremendous success Whole Foods Market has experienced in metropolitan cities in the United States, most notably New York City, by providing Londoners with a fresh and innovative choice in shopping for the most delicious and high-quality foods."
The company acquired Fresh & Wild, a U.K. chain of seven natural and organic food stores, in January 2004, and afterward said that it intended to find a site for a large-format Whole Foods Market store in the London area.
"The success we have seen in the Fresh & Wild stores since acquiring them created an even higher level of excitement and intensity to find a location for our first large-format Whole Foods Market store in London," noted Whole Foods' e.v.p. of growth and business development, Jim Sud. "Kensington High Street will be our first step in expanding the Whole Foods Market brand in the U.K. and ultimately into other parts of Europe, where we believe the long-term growth potential is tremendous."
Whole Foods currently has six stores in the 60,000- to 80,000-square-foot range, with another 17 stores of that size in development. "We are confident about the potential future returns of these larger stores, as we believe they appeal to a broader customer base, will take longer to reach maximum capacity, and are less vulnerable to competition, as they create a higher barrier to entry," added Sud.
The company will initially hire 400 to 500 employees for the London location. Like its American counterparts, the U.K. store will feature cooking demonstrations, product samplings, in-house eating areas, and thousands of natural and organic offerings in every area of the store, with a focus on procuring products from local growers, food artisans, and manufacturers. Additionally, Whole Foods expects to play a significant role in the Kensington community by sponsoring events, donating food and money to local causes, providing volunteer opportunities for employees, and serving as a local gathering place.
Whole Foods, which has more than 170 locations, operates the Whole Foods Market, Harry's Farmers Market, and Fresh & Wild banners.