Not too long ago, Whole Foods Market looked indomitable. Many owners believed the firm would weather the economic downturn because it caters to the well-heeled.

But during its third quarter Whole Foods shocked observers by reporting a 30 percent drop in net income. CEO John Mackey said the environment is the “most challenging I've experienced in my 30 years in retail.”

As a result, the company plans to cut costs and reduce the number of new stores opening in 2009. Comparable store growth, up 2.9 percent in the quarter, was below expectations.