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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Whole Foods Starts Selling Records and Hipster Headphones: cool or trying too hard?

I recently read this article recently about Whole Foods Stores beginning to offer 12" vinyl and and headphone products at some of their locations. With vinyl sales surging in recent years, it's no wonder that a store like Whole Foods would consider offering different non-food products like music. As this article points out: with Starbucks offering music and other products, it was only a matter of time before grocers would begin to follow. I'm fascinated by this trend considering that, up until now, vinyl had seemingly been buried deeper than smashed disco records at Comiskey Park. What say you: do you think this is long overdue and a welcome surprise or as my fabulous friend, DJ EFabulous, pointed out, "Whole Foods are playing the hipster game 100%?" Peep the piece below:

There’s something new in the Whole Foods aisles: records.

The company opened record shops last week inside five of their 340 locations, which means that you can now pick up quinoa, kale and, yes, vinyl at the grocery store.

The five southern California branches offer records sure to appeal to the stereotypical Whole Foods shopper: Frank Sinatra, Daft Punk, Rolling Stones, Paramore, Bob Marley and Tegan and Sara, just to name a few. The stores will also be selling LSTN Headphones, from a company that works on the TOMS shoe model. For every pair of headphones sold, LSTN helps restore hearing to a person in need through the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

The grocery store may have taken the sales cue from two other retailers who like to view themselves as purveyors of alt-cool, Starbucks and Urban Outfitters. Both retail giants have moonlighted in the music business for years, Starbucks with their omnipresent register-side CDs and Urban Outfitters is knee-deep in vinyl sales (In fact, Urban Outfitters has become one of the nation’s largest retailers of records).

The move could prove a business boon for Whole Foods: Music industry profits overall are were iffy last year, but vinyl saw a 19 percent upswing in sales. It’s unlikely that the record stores will provide a significant financial boost to Whole Foods’ substantial bottom line ($11.7 billion in sales last year), but it does give the retailer an interesting branding shift. Adding records helps move the chain from a grocery store to a lifestyle brand. Patrons don’t have to stop at healthy lunches; instead, they can buy into an alternative lifestyle, all available at Whole Foods, from the TOMS on their feet to the organic hair products on their heads to the Tegan and Sara albums spinning on their turntables.

Or in the words of Mike Bowen, Whole Foods Market executive coordinator: “This launch isn’t just about stocking our shelves with something new and different — it’s about listening to our shoppers and giving them access to the things they want — whether it’s their favorite cheese or their favorite way to enjoy music.”