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Whole Foods Wants to Shake Their "Whole Paycheck" Reputation

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It's getting real in Whole Foods, but not so much in the parking lot but inside their stores as they work to shed their rep as being a "pricey" grocery store chain. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the company whose chain of just over 300 stores nationwide are often referred to as "Whole Paycheck."

While Whole Foods has either or both unabashedly and unwittingly courted the contemporary version of the yuppie, the chain is now opening in smaller, less urban areas, and working to appeal to those shoppers. The company refers to these newer stores as being in "secondary markets," and those stores are doing well; Whole Foods says they are looking into opening more such stores. (Oh, but sorry, Silver Lakers, you're not one of those markets.)

Okay, but what are they doing to make us think they are out of most of our budgets? From the WSJ:

To counter its reputation for being expensive, Whole Foods is offering more price promotions and discounts in all of its stores, and lately it has held many of its grocery prices flat despite its own costs rising. The idea is for customers to feel that while there may be certain product prices that are going up, they are finding plenty of good deals to make up for that, said executives, who call the strategy "price perception."
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Yep, good old fashioned psychology.

The chain has also been emphasizing bang-for-your-buck in other ways, too. They offer "value" tours of their stores where employees help you shop on a budget. A number of stories have cropped up in blogs in the past few weeks about families taking a "30-Day Thrifty Challenge," in which they feed their families for a month on what the USDA indicates is a poverty-level dollar amount but shop only at Whole Foods.

On the Whole Foods blog, they have a consistent stream of budget-conscious posts, highlighting ways to shop and eat frugally using their stores, like "Go-to Meals Using Kitchen Staples" and the more overt "Budget-Boosters: Trim Your Food Waste."

Still, as the WSJ points out, their "core customer" still spends "on average, nearly three times more than new customers."

Competition is a big factor for how Whole Foods moves forward, with SoCal-based Trader Joe's expanding their market (they're headed to Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas soon) and other bargain-focused chains working to do store remodels and put the spotlight on fresh produce.

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So is Whole Foods gettin' real enough for you in the value department?