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Tattoo parlor alongside groceries? Whole Foods floats ideas for its new 365 stores

Will Whole Foods shoppers want to get a tattoo to go after picking up a head of their favorite organic lettuce? The company hopes the concept would at least pique their interest.

As the Austin, Texas-based grocery chain prepares to launch its new, smaller-format 365 by Whole Foods Market stores, the company is floating some ideas about what customers could see. 

On a website dedicated to the 365 stores, Whole Foods mulled over its potential "friends," or businesses that would partner with the chain and set up shop inside its stores.

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"Friends of 365 may be any type of business — from food and drinks to fashion, body care products, services, and more. (Record shop? Tattoo parlor? Maybe!)," the website says.

Whole Foods spokeswoman Emily Wright said that the company hasn't announced any "friends" partners yet, but that the options at the 365 stores would range from food venues to "lifestyle and services."

The chain known for its organic goods already faces steep competition from larger grocery stores such as Kroger Co. that are carrying more fresh options. Some smaller chains, such as Trader Joe’s, have also distinguished themselves by offering organic products at relatively low costs.

With lower prices and a smaller selection than current Whole Foods stores, the 365 stores are seen as the company's way to cater to younger shoppers who are more price-conscious than the typical Whole Foods customer but still want high-quality products.

But tattoos and records might not be the best way to reach them, said Burt Flickinger III, managing director of consulting firm Strategic Resource Group.

"Whole Foods stands for health and wellness," he said. "Inking typically does not epitomize health and wellness."

Flickinger said Whole Foods might be better off further investing in other in-store options, including a coffee bar.

"Whole Foods still hasn't figured out how to do coffee and tea right for self-serve in the store," he said. "It'd be much more successful taking on Peet's or Starbucks."

The first 365 store is slated to open in Silver Lake in May. The chain also plans to open in five other California locations — Santa Monica, Claremont, Los Alamitos, San Francisco and Concord — as well as in other places across the country.

For more business news, follow @smasunaga.

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