Empty shelves have appeared at the Amazon-owned brand's stores © Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Empty shelves have appeared at the Amazon-owned brand's stores © Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Whole Foods hit by supplier closure

24 January 2020

Stock levels across Whole Foods’ US stores have been hit by the unexpected closure of its supplier of private-label beans, grains, lentils and rice, according to a report from Business Insider.

The failure has led to empty shelves across the Amazon-owned US retailers, leading to customer outcry on social media. The chain has also been challenged by weather-related issues that temporarily affected the availability of lettuce from California.

Shoppers took to Twitter to complain, sharing images of meagre displays or bare shelves in some Whole Foods departments, including dairy, bulk and packaged foods. Consumers in Washington DC and New York said some types of rice and lentils had been absent for more than a month. While Whole Foods is reportedly working to find a new supplier for affected products, the process could take months, it has said.

In the meantime, the Texas-based chain, which operates 500 stores across the US and UK, is having to rely on emergency contingency plans, such as buying in branded alternatives, although these are expected to take weeks to reach shelves. “We work hard in partnership with all of our suppliers to ensure that customers find the products they are looking for,” a Whole Foods spokesperson told Business Insider. "Unfortunately, weather and other supply factors outside of our control occasionally impact product availability. When this happens, we work as quickly as possible to find solutions and provide alternative options."

Adverse weather and supplier failure are consistently listed as risks to the supply chain and business continuity, as detailed in SM magazine’s Index report, see upcoming issue, out on 7 February.

Since acquiring Whole Foods for $13.7bn in August 2017, Amazon has introduced new and sometimes unpopular supplier processes, including changes in logistics fees for product demos and tastings and collaboration with retail strategy firm Daymon and its subsidiary SAS Retail Services to check inventory and create displays. Previously suppliers were allowed to oversee their own merchandise on shelves or use third-party firms.

Whole Foods has been contacted for comment.

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