Whole Foods announced today that it would close its North Wales, PA store and open a new, larger store in Lower Gwynedd, PA. The target date for the new store, to be located in Stoltz Real Estate Partners' Springhouse Village Shopping Center, is late 2015.
Whole Foods currently operates 379 stores but expects to reach 500 sometime in 2017. The company recently said it believes it could have as many as 1,200 stores before their growth is complete. Sales in 2013 were $13 billion.
Although many high-income suburban locations like Plymouth Meeting and Lower Gwynedd still warrant 45,000+ square foot stores, Whole Foods has been in the news recently for its inner-city and smaller format stores.
Historically the company selected locations with a large number of college students, but now they are fine with population density of any kind, regardless of the income levels. New stores in Detroit and New Orleans are supporting that theory, and Newark and inner-city Chicago are next.
Whole Foods is betting on a presence in less populated markets as well, but like their inner-city locations, they are often choosing to open smaller stores. In fact, they have reduced the average store size in recent years without slowing sales growth. According to Northcoast Research Analyst Chuck Cerankosky, sales per square foot at Whole Foods have increased as the store size has decreased.
"They made a very smart change in strategy," Cerankosky said. "The stores are a more productive size, and it brings their strongly branded, fresh-food focus to more markets."
As Scott Davis wrote in Forbes.com last week, Co-CEO Walter Robb wants the company to deliver on its "promise of becoming accessible to the masses, helping America get healthier and hopefully integrating its purpose into the lives of those who never knew that Whole Foods was a brand for them."