News / Edmonton

Whole Foods cancellation leaves a hole in Edmonton shopping centre

Sorry, foodies, the Texas chain has cancelled its plans of coming to the city.

A customer leaves a Whole Foods Market store in Oakville, Ont., Aug.22, 2012. Texas-based Whole Foods Market says it's cancelling plans to open stores in Calgary and Edmonton.

The Canadian Press

A customer leaves a Whole Foods Market store in Oakville, Ont., Aug.22, 2012. Texas-based Whole Foods Market says it's cancelling plans to open stores in Calgary and Edmonton.

With sleek glass and wood accents, the mammoth store on Calgary Trail almost looks ready to open — but Whole Foods isn't coming to Edmonton after all.

“It looked like they were ready to move in, but no trucks ever showed up,” said Hayley Gillis, a team lead at Penningtons, a clothing store across the parking lot from the empty store.

On Monday, Whole Foods confirmed its plan to quadruple its Canadian presence to 40 stores has hit a snag and that it will not open in Calgary and Edmonton.

"Whole Foods Market is committed to expanding in Canada with two stores in development, but we will not be moving forward with the Calgary or Edmonton store locations,’’ wrote spokeswoman Beth Krauss in a one-sentence email late last week.

Krauss didn’t respond to a request for an interview to explain why the Alberta stores are not going ahead or to clarify the company’s growth plan. It’s unclear where the two stores in development she mentions would be located.

Gillis said she and her co-workers have watched as the former Canadian Tire on Calgary Trail was transformed to make way for what was supposed to be the organic supermarket chain’s first location in the city.

For the other businesses in the area, the now-gaping hole in the complex of stores is disappointing.

“Customers are less likely to come shop now because there’s nothing there,” Gillis said, “An empty store isn’t that entertaining.”

Tejas Patel, assistant manager at the JYSK store, said his store took a hit after Canadian Tire left — and the construction on the Whole Foods began — but said they’ve now recovered.

He added his store has been there for almost a decade so it will be able to weather the news, but worries about the newer businesses that moved in believing Whole Foods would eventually anchor the area.

“It should matter for everybody; more people means more business,” he said.

Kevin Grier, a retail analyst based in Guelph, Ont., said the poor Alberta economy, hit hard by low oil prices, likely played a role in Whole Foods decision.

"An upscale store like that needs a critical mass of affluent, confident shoppers and the fact they are cancelling or postponing stores tells me it’s indicative of the market there,’’ he said.

He added Canadians love of grocery flyers and bargains — and the fact Statistics Canada reported average grocery prices actually fell in 2016 — would also discourage the American company.

With files from the Canadian Press

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