Designer bag hysteria at Whole Foods

Organic retailer offers reusable bags designed by Anya Hindmarch for $15 in northeastern stores, consumers wait in line in the rain.

By Chris Zappone, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- Entrances to Whole Foods locations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut swarmed with shoppers Wednesday morning who had lined up to buy limited-edition canvas bags designed by Anya Hindmarch.

Whole Foods' (Charts, Fortune 500) four New York City locations each had about 2,900 bags to sell to the first shoppers who arrived, according to a Whole Foods spokesman Fred Shanks. Suburban stores had only 300 bags available.

The Anya Hindmarch-designed bag.

The light brown bags - emblazoned with the words, "I'm not a plastic bag," in blue letters - are designed to raise awareness of the environmental impact of plastic bags.

The small number of bags, priced at $15 each, did little to dissuade consumer interest.

Whole Foods' Edgewater, N.J.-location had more than 300 people waiting in the rain, according to Shanks.

The organic grocer's Union Square location in New York reported a line of 500 people, Shanks said.

The New York promotion comes after an earlier one in London, where similar bags with brown lettering went on sale first in designer Hindmarch's stores and then in a promotion at U.K. grocer Sainsbury's.

"It has been the most unbelievable project," said designer Anya Hindmarch who says she herself used to throw plastic bags away until she realized what a waste it was.

"We set out to create awareness. We think that's great," she said of the loss-making project adding "fashion does influence behavior."

"We can create this craze. Where we have the platform, that's what I do: I make things fashionable."

Others agree.

"Its a very exclusive item," said Whole Foods' Meredith Petran, a marketing manager at the Columbus Circle location. "People like to collect them."

Whole Foods' "part is to raise awareness for the reuse of shopping bags," said Petran.

"I'm getting three for friends on the West Coast because they are not selling them there," said Sarah Ting, one of the shoppers waiting in line in New York.

Shopper Camille Sieunerine said she may sell one of her bags, "if I see it go for a good price on eBay."

"But I'm going to keep one," she said. "I'm a vegan."

As of 1 pm ET, the U.S. and U.K. versions of the bags were being bid up into the mid-$200 range on eBay. On Craigslist the bag was being offered for $250.  Top of page