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Ex-Whole Foods Exec Says Grocery Stores Need To Prepare For Next Disruption

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Ex-Whole Foods Exec Says Grocery Stores Need To Prepare For Next Disruption

Now is a very difficult time to be a retailer and grocer, but it also represents an opportunity for innovative companies to "step up" and better serve customers, ex-Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

What Happened

The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced how essential grocery stores are in our lives and the importance of these workers to keep the country fed, Robb said.

Despite that, there are many takeaways on how the industry can evolve and improve, with the top priority being the improvement of health and safety of workers, followed by maximizing store layouts to safely accommodate more customers at a time, he said. 

Why It's Important

The food supply chain showed many signs of disruptions as Whole Foods, now owned by Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), and other grocery stores ran out of certain products for the first time that Robb said he can recall.

Retailers need to start thinking now about how to fix these issues for a future potential second wave of the COVID-19 or other disruption, he said. 

Encouragingly, the food chain has mostly stabilized outside of the protein segment, where there are still some shortages, the former Whole Foods exec said. 

What's Next

Many companies are scrambling to make changes today to their stores and supply chains — but are merely in the experimental stages and trying to figure out what will work best, Robb said.

Meanwhile, the consumer as a whole remains "a little bit uncomfortable."

"Businesses have got to find a way to be agile and to adapt and respond and continue to serve their customer," he said.

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