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80 jobs at risk as Cheltenham supermarket faces closure before Christmas

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Written by: The Business | Posted 07 November 2017 10:48

80 jobs at risk as Cheltenham supermarket faces closure before Christmas

Whole Foods looks set to close its Cheltenham store with the loss of around 80 jobs.

The popular Gallagher Retail Park supermarket, which sold itself on a healthy and organic ticket, opened five years ago this week, and was the first branch outside London.

It won an army of fans from yummy mummies who took part in baby yoga sessions in a meeting space outside the main shop to footballers and rugby players.

The announcement of the proposed closure, expected to be before Christmas, has been met with shock.

It comes just months after the Whole Foods brand was bought by Amazon for a rumoured $13.7 billion and just two days before the store was set to mark its birthday with a series of celebratory events. It also follows plans to extend the other side of the Gallagher Retail Park with a brand new unit.

The statement says: “After careful consideration we are proposing to close the Cheltenham store. This proposal is based on the financial performance of the store and not a reflection of your work or our commitment to our customers.”

It is signed by Asim Shad, Jade Hoai and Michael Weber, the UK Executive Co-ordinator team for Fresh and Wild Limited, trading as Whole Foods Market.

The staff at the store will now enter a consultation period before any decision is made.

Whole Foods has been approached for an official comment.

The site which Whole Foods occupies is part of the Gallagher Retail Park which is actually owned by the Queen as part of the Crown Estate.

Paul Lewis, has been running what is probably Cheltenham’s longest standing organic food retailer - The Natural Grocery Store at 150-156 Bath Rd – since 1998.

“I would like to say I am really sorry for all those staff and employees at Whole Foods. It is not a good time to lose your job. It is always a shame when business closes rather than opens,” said Mr Lewis, who runs the business with Mike Fisher.

“It is a growing market, but it is quite a cut-throat market. Like all businesses you have to keep an eye on costs and on stock levels. I think probably Whole Foods was a little rash with stock they carried and probably had to dispose of, I am guessing.

“On the organic side, the business put across that it sold organic, but when you look at how much it actually sold it was in the region of about 20 per cent. We sell 70 per cent and the other 30 per cent is free from any artificial flavourings or preservatives.”

As well as Cheltenham Whole Foods has stores in Kensington, Camden, Fulham, Clapham Junction, Piccadilly Circus, Richmond, Stoke Newington and Giffnock in Glasgow.

Whole Foods also announced plans today to close its Scottish store.

Nationally the organic market is going from strength to strength.

According to the Soil Association, which represents organic food producers, the UK organic market is now in its fifth year of strong growth and worth £2.09 billion.

Supermarket sales grew by 6.1 per cent in the last year with independent retailers increasing by 6.3 per cent.

Total sales of organic increased by 7.1 per cent in 2016 while non-organic sales continued to decline.

Organic represents around 1.5 per cent of the total UK food and drink market.

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