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27 March 2007

Whole Foods - a supermarket, but not as we know it

Ahh, Whole Foods, I know ye of old. I have a love-hate relationship with them; they are the Walmart of the bohemian lifestyle. (Founder John Mackey says that unions are "like having herpes". Charming.)

Whole Foods is coming to Britain; well, at least to London, so we'll see if they make it here. As the article says, some people didn't think Starbucks would make it here - too un-British, too expensive. But then, ten years ago this country did not have skinny lattes, blues soundtracks and comfy armchairs in their cafes and now you can hardly hope to survive as a new coffee shop without them. (Yes, I know a cafe and coffee shop are not the same thing, but that's not the point is it? Ten years ago, if you wanted a coffee you went to a caff, or something worse.) So, will Whole Foods be a force for good - pressuring mega-retailers like Tesco to up their game and give the people what they never knew they wanted? Will grocery shopping cease to be the nightmare it still is in the UK? Or will WF be a force for evil - breaking the backs of grocery workers unions, driving up prices, co-opting local suppliers and simultaneously undercutting them with flown-in organic wares? Or will the brutal behemoth that is the British retail sector break WF and send it back to the US with its tail between its legs? Should be interesting.

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