Did Whole Foods boycott work? Not likely.

imagesAfter Whole Foods CEO John Mackey penned an anti-health reform editorial for the Wall Street Journal in August, boycott calls swept the blogosphere. Given the number of my progressive friends I saw in subsequent months toting around steaming items from the Whole Foods hot bar I was skeptical that the boycott would do much damage.

The latest 10K filed by Whole Foods seems to confirm my skepticism.

While the chain was hammered by the recession the first quarter of fiscal year 2010 saw overall sales trending upward. More importantly, the boycott did not even merit a mention in the filing. Unions, by the way, get a nod under risk factors.

Although the boycott threats did not merit attention in the financial filings, which generally means they did not have a financial impact, the backlash certainly bothered Mackey. His many controversial statements probably helped spur his resignation from as chair of the company’s board of directors.

You can read more about his remarkably strange thoughts in this great New Yorker profile. It turns out he’s a pretty politically conservative guy, even though he built a chain that liberals can’t avoid, even when they try.


  1. William R

    January 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Mackey didn’t resign from the board of directors.

  2. Moes

    January 5, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Any idiot that pays for the over priced crap at Whole Foods deserves what they get.

  3. James

    January 5, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    It worked for me. My family will never spend a penny in Whole Foods as long as Mackey is associated with the company. (As far as I know, he is still on the board.)

    That said, the Chapel Hill Whole Foods is going gangbusters, which only goes to confirm my belief that Chapel Hill’s reputation as a liberal hotbed is about as authentic as John Mackey’s reputation as an enlightened business man.

  4. gregflynn

    January 5, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Mackey was CEO/Chairman. The Whole Foods Board edged him out of the role of Chairman in December though he is still CEO and a member of the Board.

  5. IBXer

    January 6, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Mackey was on Stossel a couple of weeks ago and claimed sales went up after the editorial was published. The thing you have to keep in mind is that the majority of Americans agree with him, at least according to pretty much every major poll released in the last 6 months.

  6. AdamL

    January 6, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Right, sorry, I meant to say Mackey is no longer chair. Shareholders have been trying to make that change for years, as shareholders do at most companies where the CEO is also board chair.

    Sales have been going up after the editorial, although I don’t think the editorial made a difference either way.

  7. septic tank

    January 6, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Err… no, IBXer, the polls say no such thing. They have shown ambivalence about healthcare reform (because people aren’t clear on what is and isn’t in it) and overwhelming support for a public option, which the Senate version excluded. All of which suggests broad support for a much more liberal measure than exists.

    I just love how conservatives and libertarians aren’t tethered to the same reality the rest of us are and get to have their own facts.

  8. unionmama

    January 6, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    “It turns out he’s a pretty politically conservative guy, even though he built a chain that liberals can’t avoid, even when they try.”

    You really don’t have to try very hard to avoid Whole Foods. I’m a bleeding heart liberal and union activist – and I haven’t spent a dime in a Whole Foods in a decade. I shop union. I feed my family healthy, organic, sustainable food and I don’t buy it at Whole Foods.

  9. Adam Linker

    January 6, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I’m not a Whole Foods shopper either — although I don’t have a Whole Foods in my town, which makes it easier.

  10. pino

    January 6, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    overwhelming support for a public option

    Yes, when asked if everyone should be required to have at least some insurance, support is very high. But, like anything, the devil is in the details. When asked about federal penalties to enforce the insurance requirement, support tanked.

    In other words, when asked if they would like to go to the circus, 70% of children responded that they would. However, when asked if they would like too go to the circus and then clean up after the elephants, only 30% responded that they would.

  11. pino

    January 6, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    It turns out he’s a pretty politically conservative guy, even though he built a chain that liberals can’t avoid, even when they try.

    Like many who have come before, he says that it was only when he started a business—when he had to meet payroll and deal with government red tape—that his political and economic views, fed on readings of Friedman, Rand, and the Austrians, veered to the right.

    From the New Yorker

  12. gregflynn

    January 6, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Don’t worry about the elephants. We’re cleaning up after them.

  13. IBXer

    January 7, 2010 at 11:03 am

    “overwhelming support for a public option”

    Mr. Septic Tank, if that is your real name, poll after poll shows that Americans are against the bill in Congress. Support for the public option ONLY exists when it is not defined. Poll after poll shows that if you ask “Would you support a government ran healthcare option that is paid for using tax payer dollars” support drops to about 25-30%.

    Of course, when you ask “Would you like something for free” people will say yes…

  14. chris jacob

    January 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    i just got fired from wholefoods recently i took macreroini nad chesse without paying forit by mistake iususally brngmy own lunch imso usetothat thatI forgot to pay for it and wish wholefoods would give me another chance im very sad

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