Whole Foods to close Augusta store

Augusta’s Whole Foods Market is set to close in two weeks.


The 41,000-square-foot supermarket at 2907 Washington Road was among nine store closings announced Wednesday, along with quarterly earnings that fell short of Wall Street analyst expectations.

Company spokeswoman Betsy Hardin said severance packages will be made available to employees unable to relocate to other Whole Foods stores – the nearest of which are in Columbia and Atlanta – when the Augusta store closes Feb. 22.

She declined to disclose the store’s performance or the number of employees who will be affected.

“Our main focus right now is working with our team members,” she said.

The Austin, Texas-based upscale grocery chain opened the store in September 2014, the largest tenant in the Washington Crossing “lifestyle center” near the intersection of Washington Road and Interstate 20. The retail development also houses Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill and DSW.

Before Wednesday’s announcement, marketing material for the shopping center listed it as 100 percent occupied, so the planned closure would leave approximately 27 percent of the center available for lease.

Phone messages left with the Atlanta-based property owner and North Carolina-based leasing agent were not returned Wednesday.

The store closings were Whole Foods’ first since 2008. The company earned an adjusted 39 cents a share during the first quarter, but revenue came in at $4.92 billion, less than the $4.98 billion analysts expected. Shares of the company fell in after-hours trading.

“As we work to position Whole Foods Market for long-term success, we have carefully evaluated our portfolio of stores to align with a more thoughtful growth strategy,” according to the statement it issued Wednesday.

Whole Foods has reported five quarters of falling sales at established stores and recently announced it would shut down its metro Atlanta food preparation facility by Feb. 12, which would affect 149 positions.

The company also is closing regional kitchen facilities in Everett, Mass., and Landover, Md., relying on outside suppliers for its in-store prepared foods.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or damon.cline@augustachronicle.com

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