It’s been a bumpy ride in recent weeks for some pretty big-time brands. Groupon and Twitter both announced significant layoffs, while Netflix has seen its stock price nosedive. Wal-Mart’s stock took a tumble yesterday after the retail powerhouse announced fairly bleak earnings projections.
Meanwhile, once-booming Austin-based Whole Foods Market is turning to cloud-based retail software as the grocery chain tries to get things moving in the right direction again after a series of struggles. Whole Foods is working with New York-based Infor to build software its executives hope will enable greater efficiency across its vast retail operations.
Whole Foods is just one of many companies these days that are trying to use data science to drive real-time decisions with the goal of improving customer experience. The company plans to make the software, called Infor Cloudsuite Retail, available to other retailers at some point.
There is some real urgency to the company’s emphasis on technology improvements as Whole Foods tries to enhance its customer experience while simultaneously cutting operating expenses including supply and labor costs.
Whole Foods’ stock was trading near its 52-week low yesterday on the heels of some high-profile legal issues, humbling negative press, high operating costs, and embarrassing supply chain snafus. The company has also been impacted by increased competition in the organic foods market from Wal-Mart and grocers like Kroger and Sprouts Farmers Market. The grocery chain, which pioneered the supermarket concept in natural and organic foods retailing, plans to eliminate 1,500 jobs by year-end.
Whole Foods operates more than 400 stores throughout the US, Canada, and the UK. The stores emphasize perishable and prepared products, which account for about two-thirds of sales. Whole Foods offers some 4,400 items in four lines of private-label products (such as the premium Whole Foods line).
Despite the stormy seas, the company’s executives remain optimistic. Whole Foods is still committed to launching a smaller-store format, called 365 by Whole Foods, in 2016. The new stores will be in areas Whole Foods doesn’t currently serve, giving the company new customers and new revenue streams.
Michael McLellan covers the business of restaurants, hospitality, leisure, and more for D&B and Hoover’s. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s Radio-Television-Film program. Follow him on Twitter.