The popular chain has hit hard times.
Jana Partners, Whole Foods’ second largest shareholder, has some harsh criticism for the trendy organic grocer.
According to the New York Times, the hedge fund, which has an almost nine percent stake in Whole Foods, attacked the grocer from every angle, on “everything from how it has handled its brand development to what it says are deficiencies in customer service.”
They weren’t even trying to polite in their assessment of the store, at one point calling out it’s “chronic underperformance.”
It may come as a surprise given the affluent crowd attracted to it’s aisles, but Whole Foods' sales have been suffering for a while now. It now facing a growing number of competitors—like Walmart and Costco—who want to cash in on the natural food craze, and offer the same selection of organic food at lower prices. Though Whole Foods has slashed prices and offered rewards programs for regular shoppers, their share price continues to drop. Grub Street reports that Whole Foods’ stock “has lost almost half its value since 2013.”
“It went from being a darling of Wall Street and so culturally important that it was parodied on ‘The Simpsons,’” Joe Dobrow, the author of “Natural Prophets,” a book about the history of health foods, told the Times.
Jana Partners wants to bring in new board members, or perhaps take an even more extreme strategy: analysts at Credit Suisse wrote a report to investors, suggesting that one way to solve the retailer’s problems would be to sell itself. In the past, Amazon and Kroger have been suggested as potential buyers.
In fact, Jana is hoping to overhaul the company from top to bottom: They claim that they will, “improve its technology and operations to better compete with larger rivals, shake up its board, and explore how much potential bidders might be willing to pay.”
In a statement of their own, a rep for Whole Foods said that they’re “open to the views and opinions of all of our shareholders.”
Translation: “We’re open to views and opinions that can help us make money."