Brand Experience Brief: Whole Foods Encinitas

(Check out my latest Brand Experience Brief — a video audit and analysis of a new or interesting restaurant or retail concept.)

The Whole Foods store in Encinitas, California, brings the best of a farmers’ market and the best of a national grocer together, demonstrating how a national brand can engage its local communities authentically.

Brand Experience Brief: Whole Foods Encinitas (by Denise Lee Yohn) from Denise Lee Yohn on Vimeo.

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How does a national brand engage with local communities?  You’ll find out in today’s brand experience brief.  I’m Denise Yohn and today I’m talking about Whole Foods, specifically the Whole Foods located in Encinitas California, a suburb just north of San Diego.  This location does a terrific job of leveraging the strength of Whole Foods as a national brand while acting and communicating like a local retailer.  It’s an approach that we’ll likely be seeing in more Whole Foods locations because it’s so effective.  Let me show you want I mean.

The store is filled with signage promoting its tie to local businesses, local farmers, and the local community – but the store’s local ties aren’t just a marketing campaign.

The produce section is filled with products from local farmers and growers

The meat section includes locally sourced beef and poultry

The store has large local craft beer selection and the section features team member picks which makes it feel even more personal.

And most of the other categories also include locally sourced items, even the frozen aisle, as this floor sign indicates.

The company says it aims to source 20% of its products locally across the chain – this store is definitely well beyond that average.

Many of the prepared products are promoted with signs that introduce the person who made them

Or at least a sticker that indicates they were made on the premises.

Even the posts in the underground parking garage promote the local angle.

Whole Foods also runs a program in which it provides low income loans to local producers and farmers

The store engages with the local community through its blogger of the month program which features a local blogger and his or her shopping tips

As well as host of events and special promotions only available at the specific location.

The store’s personal connection to its community isn’t just a façade – in the back of the house, customer feedback is on display for employees to peruse

As are profiles of store personnel including their favorite products and what they like about working for the company.

The emphasis on local extends to the web, where there are Field Notes which relay personal stories about the company’s local sourcing efforts

And locally targeted promos, recipes, and announcements are on  Facebook

The store even has its own Twitter feed

So Whole Foods Encinitas has a great local vibe despite being part of a chain of nearly 350 stores.  The company is able to do this because it empowers its store managers to experiment with new concepts and to source and stock local products.

Co-CEO Walter Robb attributes this approach to lessons learned during the recession, saying that the downturn prompted the company to get back to its roots and re-emphasize its connection to the community and to local producers.

So far it’s produced excellent results.  The company as a whole closed 2012 with a 24% increase in sales — Comparable store sales increased 8.5%.

With growing demand for personal service and unique products, many large companies want to seem small but they struggle to do so in an authentic way.  Whole Foods seems to have cracked the code.

The store brings the best of a farmers market and the best of a national grocer together, with high quality, locally-sourced products presented in a consistent and compelling way.

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