Whole Foods and Walmart CEOs Bringing Back ‘Theater of Retail’

Store experiences and the "theater of retail" are going to be at the forefront of the Whole Foods shopping experience, says Jason Buechel, the new Chief Executive Officer of Whole Foods Market, and John Furner, President and CEO of Walmart.

Buechel took over the leadership of Whole Foods, a subsidiary of online behemoth Amazon, from co-founder John Mackey on September 1 of this year. After taking the helm, Buechel announced to the Groceryshop Conference in Las Vegas that he sees the future of retail as an experience that restores the enjoyment of in-person shopping and emphasizes sustainability in the post-COVID world. Whole Foods will implement a new label program called "Sourced for Good," in which a third party verifies that items have been responsibly sourced, and products are graced with a sticker that informs customers of their status. The company is also banning more than 500 ingredients shown to be harmful to health and wellness, including hydrogenated fats and high fructose corn syrup. Additionally, they are attempting to focus on local products and promote small businesses in the distinct areas of each store.

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Furner says that sustainability is also at the top of Walmart's priority list for the coming years. Still, he sees the "theater of retail" heading in a different direction – that of home deliveries and pickup orders. He plans to cater to higher-income households by investing in Walmart+, a value-added delivery service. Wealthier customers, Furner added, are also highly interested in green sourcing, which is why Walmart is now utilizing and funding an indoor vertical farming venture based out of San Francisco called Plenty Unlimited.

Walmart also recently began working with Sustainable Beef, a rancher-owned company that provides Angus beef from an environmentally-conscious processing facility. In addition, Walmart will start testing drone deliveries for urban customers by partnering with DroneUp, which aims to serve four million households across Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Utah, and Virginia.