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Whole Foods Market to Launch E-Commerce Subsidiary

Whole Foods Market has established an electronic commerce subsidiary in an effort to create a comprehensive natural foods site on the Internet.

WholeFoods.com will offer an information- rich Web site designed to replicate the unique Whole Foods Market shopping experience, the company said.

The site will offer the trademark Whole Foods Market product mix, with approximately 6,000 items available on its launch, and nearly 10,000 products offered soon thereafter. WholeFoods.com will ultimately feature more than 20,000 pages of content related to natural foods.

WholeFoods.com will initially offer non-perishable items shipped to all 50 states from a central distribution center. Perishable offerings will be gradually introduced once demand and profitability can be established, the company said.

According to WholeFoods.com President Carl Morris, the company will benefit from a number of built-in advantages over other online grocers.

"Our legion of loyal customers shop Whole Foods Market because we offer a unique product mix. . .About 1.5 million customers visit Whole Foods Market stores each week, and their demographic profiles closely match those of today's Internet shoppers," he said.

Spurning the banner ads, the company said WholeFoods.com will implement a promotion, incentive and awareness campaign in all 88 Whole Foods Market locations nationwide.

The company plans for an employee incentive program, called the Team Member Incentive Program (TIP), that rewards Whole Foods Market's more than 14,000 employees for sending customers to WholeFoods.com.

"Our TIP program is a cornerstone of our marketing initiative," said John Fischer, WholeFoods.com's director of marketing. "By giving our Team Members the incentive and means to send customers to the site, we're making the case that strong, traditional retail companies have certain advantages over Internet-only e-commerce groups, including the costs of customer acquisition."

An initial version of WholeFoods.com is scheduled to launch on March 22. In-store promotion of the site will begin April 12.



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