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Whole Foods failure
1st March, 2008
Only a few years ago, stories about Whole Foods Market became famous for their poetic quality, as journalists waxed lyrical about how the fresh, organic fruit in their stores was proof that you could be a successful business while remaining environmentally friendly. Last year, however, sustained questioning by consumers and regulators alike saw the shine come off the company’s glossy image.Most revealing of all, the company’s CEO and founder, John Mackay, was investigated for unethical behaviour after being exposed posting investment advice on the internet under a pseudonym, talking his company up and attacking its main competitor, Wild Oats. What made this all the more shocking was that Wild Oats had been the subject of a takeover bid by Whole Foods Market at the time, leaving Mackay open to accusations of market-rigging and fraud.
The company finished the year in a slump. In the US, its share price plummeted amid revelations that it was refusing to support a scheme to raise migrant agricultural workers out of conditions likened to slavery. In the UK, despite the 2004 purchase of the Fresh & Wild chain, the company’s new European flagship store in London struggled to draw customers and became embroiled in accusations that it had avoided paying for work permits by claiming US nationals were entering the UK solely to attend meetings.
The revolution, it would appear, is complete. What started out as a small, local, natural foods retailer with a conscience has become just another multi-billion-dollar corporation fudging the issue of ethics in order to satisfy a Wall Street...
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