Whole Foods to open lower-priced 365 store in Santa Monica

Whole Foods Market Inc. will open a 365 value-concept store in Santa Monica this summer, its second such location in the region as the company grapples with declining sales in an increasingly crowded industry.

The store on the corner of Pico and Cloverfield boulevards is scheduled to open Aug 9., the Austin, Texas, firm said Tuesday.

The small-format stores are aimed at consumers who don’t typically shop at the organic grocer, including younger individuals without a lot of disposable income. Prices are lower than at a typical Whole Foods, which has at times been derided as "Whole Paycheck."

Prices are kept lower in part by a smaller footprint — both in real estate and jobs. For example, instead of asking an employee wine guide for tips on the best Merlot, consumers can query an in-store iPad by scanning wine labels for a review.

There’s also a greater selection of lower-cost food, including non-organic produce, though the company stresses it still prioritizes quality.

The stores are a response to growing competition in the industry, analysts say.

Organic and artisan foods, Whole Foods' forte, are now sold at chains such as Ralphs and Safeway. Big-box retailers like Target and Wal-Mart also have expanded their food offerings.

As a result, Whole Foods’ financials and stock price have taken a hit. In the company’s first quarter, sales at stores open at least a year fell 2.4% from the same period a year earlier. There was a report last month that the big supermarket chain Albertsons was interested in acquiring Whole Foods.

Whole Foods spokeswoman Janette Rizk said the company is working to open 365 stores in three other locations in Southern California: North Hollywood, Long Beach and Upland. She said the company doesn’t have opening dates for those stores.

Whole Foods opened its first 365 store in the U.S. in May 2016 in Silver Lake. At the time, it said it planned 12 more nationwide over the next two years.

Staff Writer Samantha Masunaga contributed.

andrew.khouri@latimes.com

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