Whole Foods is shrinking its operations for the first time in nearly a decade. Facing its worst sales slump in more than 10 years, the company is taking a step some thought unthinkable: closing several of its stores. According to Bloomberg, the company will shutter nine stores during the current quarter. That kind of move hasn’t been made since the pit of the 2008 recession.
Whole Foods currently holds approximately 440 stores around the United States, has abandoned its 1,200 location growth target as it deals with its current financial straits.
The chain has seen six straight quarters of decreasing same-store sales.
“This is a company that owned the space for a long time, but there’s way too much competition now,” said Brian Yarbrough, Edward Jones analyst, to Bloomberg. “They’ve done several things to try and drive sales, and it’s just not working.”
Same-store sales fell 2.4 percent last quarter, far worse than the 1.7 percent predicted, and is on track to fall another 2.5 percent this year, according to forecasts.
Whole Foods has struggled with increased competition from stores like Kroger and Wal-Mart, which have started offering more organic fare in recent years. Deflated food prices, too, have taken their toll on the whole industry.
However, the company isn’t scaling back entirely. Three of the company’s new 365 by Whole Foods Market stores have opened on the West coast, and on Feb. 8 announced it had signed leases for more 365 stores in Oakland and Brooklyn.
According to co-founder John Mackey, the decision to shutter the nine stores will help boost profits and comparable sales, and despite its more cautious approach, still has some 80 stores on the way.