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The Oregonian features an interview with Walter Robb, Whole Foods' co-president and chief operating officer, in which he discusses the rationale behind the company’s decision to buy Wild Oats, and what the future might bring. Excerpts:

On the timing… “Wild Oats had just made a change in their CEO and their CFO left, leaving a real vacuum at the leadership level. They also had just closed a number of underperforming stores and what was left was pretty good. Their stores all line up really well with our 11 national operating regions, and they give us critical mass in places such as Colorado that we just didn't have before.”

On why Wild Oats struggled… “I think they started to go sideways from their original mission. Part of their original culture was a genuine desire to change the world. But as more and more power and authority were centralized in Boulder, Colo., their individual stores had much less flexibility. But I think that passion still lives in there somewhere, and it can be relit by joining the two companies together.”

On Wal-Mart as a competitor… “We see ourselves as leaders, not followers, and Wal-Mart is the follower here. They are taking some important steps, and I hope they are being sincere. Everyone…should be happy to see one of the world's largest corporations taking steps to be a more responsible operator and offering more choices. Our goal is to keep evolving and keep innovating to stay ahead of Wal-Mart.”
KC's View:
Robb’s choice of words brought us back to a line that MNB user Glen Terbeek used last week in ‘Your Views,” that “effectiveness is for leaders, efficiency is for followers.”

It strikes us that one of the challenges for Whole Foods as it integrates Wild Oats’ operations into its own is to make sure it continues to prize effectiveness and leadership over efficiency.

To do otherwise will mean putting at risk the company’s reputation for leadership in its business segment.