- Earth Fare will close its Indianapolis-area locations in Carmel, Noblesville and Greenwood, Indiana, on Jan. 11, according to the Indianapolis Star.
- The grocer also plans to close a store in Fairfax, Virginia, on Jan. 11, according to the Washington Business Journal. The location has been open for two years.
- The retailer has not shared any details regarding the reasons for the closures.
Shuttering four stores, the oldest of which opened in 2012, is a worrying sign for Earth Fare, and may indicate trouble ahead for its ambitious growth outlook.
Earlier this year, Earth Fare announced plans to double its store count and have 100 stores operating by 2024. In local reports, CEO Frank Scorpiniti has said the chain has around 100 additional locations in its pipeline.
On the other hand, the closures may signal the chain is adjusting as it grows, choosing to focus on core markets rather than outposts like Indianapolis. Earth Fare maintains a strong presence in North Carolina, its home state. It's also targeting growth in Florida, where it has 15 locations and could add 15 more in the coming years, Scorpiniti told the South Florida Business Journal.
On top of its aggressive expansion plans, Earth Fare is dabbling with improving in-store offerings. It recently reported a 10% boost in dine-in food sales thanks to digital screens at a cafe inside one of its Charlotte, North Carolina, stores. It’s also remodeling stores to provide a more streamlined shopping experience while adding new grocery products and meal options.
Earth Fare isn't the only natural grocer enduring growing pains. Fresh Thyme recently shuttered three Midwest stores while Sprouts Farmers Market plans to check its growth next year as it adjusts its strategy. Lucky's Farmers Market, which has planted stores from Montana to Florida, recently lost Kroger as a strategic investor.
This new wave of natural and organic grocers has sought to capitalize on a floundering Whole Foods, which struggled financially before its acquisition in 2017 and has failed to inspire consumers under Amazon. But with traditional retailers, club stores and discounters all increasing their specialty assortment, retailers like Earth Fare are challenged to carve out a unique proposition.
"There absolutely is something in this model, but this is not an expand-at-all-costs model," Neil Stern, senior partner with McMillanDoolittle, recently told Grocery Dive.
Jeff Wells contributed reporting to this brief.