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Whole Foods' Ribs May Start to Show

Consumer spending is decreasing, and grocers like Whole Foods Market (WFMI) are suffering hunger pangs.

Though Whole Foods is still popular among wealthy urban professionals, it's haunted by its old nickname: "Whole Paycheck." Consumers view Whole Foods as a luxury shopping destination -- and in this economic downturn they're looking elsewhere for their bread and butter.

The table below compares the drop in average consumer spending per visit at grocery retailers year to date. Whole Foods spending dropped 19% from January to October 2008, whereas value-branded Stop & Shop (AHONY) had a slim 1.54% decrease in customer spending. Not bad for an economically volatile year.

Click here for larger image.

The bad news for Whole Foods doesn't end there.

Not only does Whole Foods have the biggest drop in spending per visit from January to October, but its customers are also spending the least per visit of all stores compared, according to the new Main Street Spending Index (MSSI) compiled by Geezeo a personal finance Web site that helps consumers track their spending.

A Whole Foods customer spent just $28.30 during an average visit in October. By contrast, "value retailer" Safeway (SWY) saw the largest spending average of $44.83 per visit in October. Its drop in spending from January to October was 5.32%.

How have the other grocery stores fared? Here's a brief rundown.

Click here for larger image.

Publix (PUSH.OB) enjoyed the next largest spending average. The average user spent $41.86 per visit in October. Publix's January to October drop was 7.81%.
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