Business News

Local Whole Foods spared from job cuts

by Christiaan Mader

With reports that Louisiana Whole Foods locations will bear some part of a swath of cuts, Lafayette's store is unaffected, a local manager says.

Whole Foods Ambassador Caffery
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While Whole Foods employees across the nation brace for a reported 1,500 in job cuts in the next eight weeks, employees at Lafayette's Ambassador Caffery Parkway location will be unaffected. Speculation that Lafayette Whole Foods positions were under the knife emerged from general comments by Whole Foods Louisiana spokeswoman Kristina Bradford, but Paul Weinbach, a department and shift manager for the Lafayette store, says the local location’s staffing alignment already matches the proposed employment structure Whole Foods is attempting to institute nationally.

In other words, the estimated 75 to 100 positions at the Lafayette Whole Foods are safe, at least from this round of cuts, which the company hopes to accomplish by attrition.

“The restructuring here is already in line with what Whole Foods will look like,” says Weinbach.

Given the location’s youth, that’s not surprising. The Lafayette Whole Foods hit its one-year anniversary this past weekend, so the store was built and staffed with the company’s future employment makeup already in place and has continued to follow that structure.

Locations around the state are expecting to see cuts and position redistribution over the next two months as part of the corporation’s attempt to streamline its operations, ostensibly to lower costs and become more competitive with the growing number of organic food stores and co-ops popping up around the country. The irony here is that the Austin-based Whole Foods is often commended for inspiring a generation of source-conscience consumers and food producers, thus creating competition in a market it popularized.

Whole Foods has taken heat for its high prices, a criticism heightened by allegations of over-charging on certain products in its New York City locations. Moving forward, Whole Foods has created a test brand of lower-cost organic stores branded with its 365 line of generic organic products. That iteration of the store, Whole Foods' ostensible answer to Trader Joe’s, is currently in the works chiefly on the West Coast and in a Southern location in Houston.

365 by Whole Foods’ will target hipster submarkets inside already-established Whole Food-friendly demographics. Neighborhoods like Silver Lake in Los Angeles and I suppose the entirety of Portland, Ore., were chosen thanks to a large makeup of underemployed, image-conscience urbanites who prefer their parsnips organically sourced but competitively priced.

I’d be lying if I said that didn’t appeal to me.

When reached to comment on Weinbach's statement, Bradford repeated the Whole Foods' company line on the cuts. A comment that doesn't exclude Weinbach's confirmation that the Lafayette Whole Foods will not specifically be affected by the restructuring move.

"These changes are effective company-wide, which includes the Louisiana stores," Bradford writes via email.

Despite the efficiency cuts, Whole Foods continues to expand nationally with 100 new stores in the works on top of the five 365 by Whole Foods shops scheduled to open in 2016.