WSJ Quotes Theory House on Changes at Whole Foods

Customers shop at a Whole Foods store in New York. PHOTO: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS

Amazon Puts Whole Foods on Fast Track to Conventional Supermarket
Specialty grocer will no longer allow ‘brand advocates’ in stores, a potential blow to local sellers

Whole Foods will change the way companies can sell and market their products in stores beginning next year, one of the biggest moves yet in its continuing push to operate more like a traditional market.

Under the changes planned to begin in April, Whole Foods’ 470 locations will no longer allow brand representatives to promote their products or check to make sure they are stocked and displayed correctly.

Whole Foods also is centralizing much of its decision-making regarding the assortment of products across the country. Instead of allowing brands to frequently pitch their products to individual stores or regions, Whole Foods executives in its Austin, Texas headquarters will choose a higher percentage of the items stores carry.

The move had slowly gotten under way in recent months, but Inc.’sAMZN -0.87% merger with the chain in August provided additional incentive for Whole Foods to move away from its decentralized model and become more efficient.

“This is another step in the conventionalizing of Whole Foods as we know it,” said Jim Cusson, of Charlotte, N.C.-based Theory House, a brand consultancy.

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