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Whole Foods Sales of Organic Clothing May Generate Mass Market Demand

Whole Foods Mulls Push Into Organic Clothing
Nov 10, 2004
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Whole Foods Market Inc. may sell organic clothes at
its supermarkets, a move which could mark the boldest move yet by a major
U.S. retailer to market goods made of naturally grown fibers.

As the top U.S. organic and natural food chain, Whole Foods is favorably
positioned to capitalize on burgeoning demand for organic clothes and home
linens, analysts said.

The company, with 163 stores, is building a new flagship location in its
Austin, Texas, hometown that may include clothes made with materials like
organic cotton, according to a spokesman.

Except for a few private Web sites, organic clothing is largely a rarity,
and most consumers can't even tell an organic T-shirt from a conventional
one.

As with organic food, many think clothes made of chemical-free dyes and
natural yarns are too expensive, analysts said. They added that other
consumers see such clothing as less stylish than conventional varieties.

Still, Whole Foods said it may introduce organic clothes at its Austin
store, which is set to open in early March, but the company has made no
final determination of the store's new product line-up.

"It's something we're considering along with many other unusual things,"
spokesman Scott Simons said.

BB&T Capital Markets analyst Andrew Wolf said Whole Foods, as a top organic
and natural food chain, has gained high credibility with its customers.

"If the market is going to go into organic clothing, perhaps they will be
well-positioned to be part of it," Wolf said.

Last year sales of natural foods and other organic products hit $42.8
billion, up 8.1 percent from the prior year, according to industry
publication Natural Foods Merchandiser.

Organic clothes appeal more to people who are conscious about the effect
their lives has on the environment or those who detest the use of synthetic
fabrics and dyes in clothing.

According to the Organic Consumers Association, the use of conventionally
grown cotton promotes use of pesticides, harming the environment.