A Fresh Sound: Whole Foods Starts Selling Records

GMO-free vinyl now spinning at select Whole Foods

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Record store day

There’s something new in the Whole Foods aisles: records.

The company opened record shops last week inside five of their 340 locations, which means that you can now pick up quinoa, kale and, yes, vinyl at the grocery store.

The five southern California branches offer records sure to appeal to the stereotypical Whole Foods shopper: Frank Sinatra, Daft Punk, Rolling Stones, Paramore, Bob Marley and Tegan and Sara, just to name a few. The stores will also be selling LSTN Headphones, from a company that works on the TOMS shoe model. For every pair of headphones sold, LSTN helps restore hearing to a person in need through the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

The grocery store may have taken the sales cue from two other retailers who like to view themselves as purveyors of alt-cool, Starbucks and Urban Outfitters. Both retail giants have moonlighted in the music business for years, Starbucks with their omnipresent register-side CDs and Urban Outfitters is knee-deep in vinyl sales (In fact, Urban Outfitters has become one of the nation’s largest retailers of records).

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The move could prove a business boon for Whole Foods: Music industry profits overall are were iffy last year, but vinyl saw a 19 percent upswing in sales. It’s unlikely that the record stores will provide a significant financial boost to Whole Foods’ substantial bottom line ($11.7 billion in sales last year), but it does give the retailer an interesting branding shift. Adding records helps move the chain from a grocery store to a lifestyle brand. Patrons don’t have to stop at healthy lunches; instead, they can buy into an alternative lifestyle, all available at Whole Foods, from the TOMS on their feet to the organic hair products on their heads to the Tegan and Sara albums spinning on their turntables.

Or in the words of Mike Bowen, Whole Foods Market executive coordinator: “This launch isn’t just about stocking our shelves with something new and different — it’s about listening to our shoppers and giving them access to the things they want — whether it’s their favorite cheese or their favorite way to enjoy music.”

(MORE: Revenue Up, Piracy Down: Has the Music Industry Finally Turned a Corner?)