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Whole Foods co-chief sets goal of 1,000 U.S. stores

AUSTIN — Whole Foods Market co-CEO Walter Robb told investors at a Jefferies Global Consumer Conference that the now-300-store chain is expected to grow to 1,000 stores in the United States.

The organic grocer sees opportunity in Canada as well, and Robb said it expects to grow its store count there from six to 35.

As reported by Reuters on Wednesday, Robb said the tumult in the commercial property market has created opportunities for companies looking to expand, and Whole Foods has identified locations where it "can put some bets down and take advantage of that," Robb said. However, he added, the chain has left itself flexibility room to exit leases should the economy significantly worsen.

"We have some contingency plans so that if we needed to, we could slow down," said Robb, who added that leases now include exit and buyout clauses.

Robb said Whole Foods would give more detail on growth plans on the company's next quarterly earnings call.