Whole Foods Market rival Earth Fare has announced that it is closing all its stores with liquidation sales starting now. The specialty natural and organic grocer will also lay off employees at all of its stores as well as at its corporate office.

Earth Fare is looking to sell its assets “in whole or in parts,” after facing what it calls challenges in the retail industry that prevented it from progressing. The company said it was unable to refinance its debt based on these challenges.

“As a result, Earth Fare is not in a financial position to continue to operate on a go-forward basis,” the company said in a statement. “As such, we have made the difficult, but necessary decision to commence inventory liquidation sales while we continue to engage in a process to find potential suitors for our stores.”

Earth Fare said it has tried a number of initiatives to grow its business, but they turned up fruitless as consumer shopping preferences changed and are geared more toward e-commerce shopping. Earth Fare has about 50 stores, primarily located in the South.

Earth Fare is the third grocery chain to close stores in recent weeks. Lucky’s Market and Fairway Markets also closed locations upon filing for Chapter 11 bankrutpcy protection. 

Grocery Store Calif Fresh and Easy 2012 2 The defeat of a GMO labeling referendum Tuesday in Washington was a result of a corporate-backed, "sophisticated propaganda machine," said David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. Photo: Reuters