(Sept. 12) Details about what Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Markets Inc. plans to do with newly acquired Wild Oats Market Inc. continue to trickle into news reports.

Co-president and chief operating officer Walter Robb elaborated on one of those plans — Whole Foods Market Express, a new banner — during a presentation at the Goldman Sachs Global Retailing Conference on Sept. 5-6 in New York.

A Whole Foods Express store seemed a logical solution for some of the smaller-footprint Wild Oats stores and as Tesco prepares to launch its Fresh & Easy stores on the West Coast, Robb said.

“We think that the No. 1 driver for consumer behavior today is convenience,” he said. “Strategically, being able to be in more places makes sense.”

The first store to be converted, a former Wild Oats banner in Boulder, Colo., will have more grab-and-go items, he said.

“It’s going to be thoughtful and related to the mother ship, so to speak,” Robb said. “There are going to be recognizable elements for the brand there but with more self-service items. It will be more compact, but with our own distinct twist on it.”

A second store in Pasadena, Calif., is being looked at, as well as some other smaller stores, Robb said. The Express format is not designed to replace a Whole Foods store.

“You can’t replicate the entire experience in a small space,” he said.


Robb also talked about plans for existing Wild Oats stores and personnel. Some stores already have been notified of closure or reformatting, but Whole Foods did not have access to individual store financial information until the deal went through in late-August.

“We’ll start to release more information about the analysis for the stores,” he said. “By the end of September, you’ll know exactly what’s going to happen to the store base.”

Robb said Whole Foods was encouraged by what it found when it studied each individual store.

“I think we’re going to keep more than I thought,” he said.