Whole Foods Market cancels Alberta openings

A plan to quadruple its Canadian presence to 40 stores has hit a snag

CALGARY — A plan to quadruple its Canadian presence to 40 stores has hit a snag for Whole Foods Market which confirms it will not proceed with planned store openings in Calgary and Edmonton.

The gigantic American natural and organic foods supermarket chain says on its website it has a total of 12 Canadian stores: five each in the Vancouver and Toronto areas, one in Ottawa and a new store that opened in Victoria in November.

“Whole Foods Market is committed to expanding in Canada with two stores in development, but we will not be moving forward with the Calgary or Edmonton store locations,” wrote spokeswoman Beth Krauss in a one-sentence email late last week.

In a followup email Monday, she said the two stores in development are in Toronto and North Vancouver, both slated for 2017 openings, but did not respond to a request to explain why the Alberta stores aren’t going ahead or clarify longer range expansion plans.

Two years ago, CEO John Mackey told reporters at a Montreal conference the chain would eventually grow to 40 Canadian locations from 10, without giving a specific timeline.

He said the chain was then actively looking for a Montreal location.

Whole Foods announced in February 2015 it would open a 42,000-square-foot location in south Edmonton by the fall of 2016, along with a new store in Calgary by the summer of 2017. It said each store would create an estimated 150 jobs.

In September, a Whole Foods spokeswoman confirmed published reports that the chain had terminated a lease deal for a store in Calgary’s North Hill Mall due to “timing challenges” but said the company remained committed to expanding in Canada with four stores in development.

Maureen Atkinson, a partner with retail consultancy J.C. Williams Group in Toronto, said Whole Foods’ financial results have been slowed by competition throughout North America as grocery competitors including Loblaws and Walmart introduce organic food sections whose offerings are often lower priced.

“I don’t think formally they’ve made any announcement that they’re not going to continue to expand in Canada but my guess is they will be very careful about where they do that and more selective … than maybe two years ago,” Atkinson said.

She added the low value of the Canadian dollar versus the greenback makes it difficult for U.S. firms to justify expansions in Canada because the payoff will come in “75-cent dollars.”

Kevin Grier, a retail analyst based in Guelph, Ont., said the poor Alberta economy, hit hard by low oil prices, likely also played a role in Whole Foods decision.

“An upscale store like that needs a critical mass of affluent, confident shoppers and the fact they are cancelling or postponing stores tells me it’s indicative of the market there,” he said.

He added Canadians love of grocery flyers and bargains — and the fact Statistics Canada reported average grocery prices actually fell in 2016 — would also discourage the American company.

On its website, Whole Foods says it has 467 stores, all in the U.S. except for the 12 Canadian stores and nine in the U.K.

It started out with one store at its home base of Austin, Texas, in 1980.

In a regulatory filing for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, Whole Foods said its international stores contributed three per cent of its overall annual sales revenue of US$15.7 billion.

Just Posted

WATCH: Red Deer teacher engages students with “cool” science experiments

On Thursday, he made fire dance to the beat of the music

Province purchases land for new Red Deer courthouse

Construction to begin in the fall of 2019

Parking costs in Red Deer are going up — so are parking tickets

City council raises parking rates by 25 per cent starting July 1

WATCH: Alberta Party leadership candidates in Red Deer

Three people vying to be the leader of the Alberta Party were… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month