How to get Whole Foods to open in your retail center

whole foods photo for grocery anchored retail story

by Dan Rafter

You’re developing a retail center. You’d love to have it anchored by one of the grocery business’ hottest stars, Whole Foods Market.

But how do you attract the grocer to your development?

It all comes down to the demographics.

Tim Blum, vice president of retail for HSA Commercial Real Estate knows this. A new 45,150-square-foot Whole Foods Market will open in February of next year at the HSA-developed Mayfair Collection mixed-use development in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. But HSA wasn’t sure to land the coveted grocer until the company could prove that the Wauwatosa location in the Milwaukee market would attract the members of Whole Foods’ core demographic.

That core demographic? College-educated consumers.

“Whole Foods doesn’t primarily look at the incomes or other socio-economic factors of the nearby customer base,” Blum said. “By far, what they most want to see is a large concentration of college-educated consumers near their stores, no matter what their income levels. College-educated consumers, by far, are what Whole Foods considers their best customers.”

Whole Foods already operates a store in downtown Milwaukee. And when the grocer announced its plans to open one additional supermarket somewhere in the western suburbs of the Milwaukee market, HSA officials took note. The only problem? Whole Foods officials originally considered the suburb of Brookfield as the leading choice for this second store.

Blum said that Whole Foods didn’t initially see much upside to opening in HSA’s Mayfair Collection development, largely because the development’s location was a former industrial site with no retail surrounding it.

This hesitation, though, disappeared when HSA began developing the first phase of the mixed-use center. HSA attracted top retailers such as Nordstrom Rack, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, Old Navy and Men’s Wearhouse. The Wauwatosa shops are some of the only locations for many of the retailers now operating at the Mayfair Collection.

This extends the trade area for the development, Blum said. The trade area for the first phase shops of the Mayfair Collection extends throughout the entire Milwaukee area, from the Northwest to the Southwest suburbs. The development also sits on Highway 45 just north of Interstate-94, making it easy for Milwaukee-area shoppers to get to it. Blum says that the Mayfair Collection is a 10- to 15-minute drive of nearly anywhere in the Milwaukee metropolitan area.

Whole Foods officials realized this, and saw that the college-educated consumers they crave would have no trouble reaching the location. That persuaded Whole Foods to choose the Mayfair Collection as the home for its second Milwaukee-area store.

“They saw that the college-educated people could best be served in this location,” Blum said. “This was by far the best location for them.”

Construction crews began building the new Whole Foods store in the fall of 2014. In August, HSA will deliver the completed building to the grocer. Whole Foods plans to open for business in the Mayfair Collection on Feb. 1 of 2016.

“A grocery store is a very attractive tenant for a retail center,” Blum said. “People shop at grocery stores several times a week. My wife shops at the Whole Foods in Chicago multiple times a week. That salient factor is by far the biggest reason why investors and developers are attracted to grocery-anchored centers. It’s all about driving sales. Grocery stores are the belle of the ball.”

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