Amazon To Acquire Whole Foods Market

by Raymond Pucci 0

Alexa—please buy something for me at Whole Foods…..wait, I didn’t mean the whole company! Maybe this wasn’t the way that Amazon’s announced acquisition of Whole Foods transpired, but you never know. As the following article relates, Whole Foods has been under pressure to turn around their business, and may now have found the right buyer.

Amazon said on Friday that it had agreed to buy the upscale grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.4 billion, as the online retailer looks to conquer new territory in the supermarket aisle.

For Amazon, the deal marks an ambitious push into the mammoth grocery business, an industry that in the United States accounts for around $700 to $800 billion in annual sales. Amazon is also amplifying the competition with Walmart, which has been struggling to play catch-up to the online juggernaut.

For Whole Foods, the deal represents a chance to fend off pressure from activist investors frustrated by a sluggish stock price. Whole Foods last month unveiled a sweeping overhaul of its board, replacing five directors, naming a new chairwoman and bringing in a new chief financial officer. It also laid out plans to improve operations and cut costs.

With Amazon, Whole Foods gets a deep-pocketed owner with significant technological expertise and a willingness to invest aggressively in a quest for dominance.

Amazon has designs on expanding beyond online retail into physical stores. The company is slowly building a fleet of outlets, and much attention has been focused on its supermarket dreams. It has already made an initial push through AmazonFresh, its grocery delivery service.

Whole Foods has increasingly faced fierce competition from rival supermarkets. National retailers like Costco, Safeway and Walmart have begun offering organic produce and kitchen staples, forcing Whole Foods to slash prices. Whole Foods has been feeling the heat to bolster its stock for more than a year.

John Mackey, a founder, took over as sole chief executive last year, in a bid to revive the company. Money managers, unhappy with the pace of the turnaround effort, have pushed for more, taking aim at the board, its grocery offerings and its pricey real estate holdings.

Amazon is doubling down on their recent forays into brick-and-mortar stores, through their bookstores, as well as their interest in the grocery store vertical. It’s too soon to assess how the Whole Foods deal will turn out, but there are many possibilities including Amazon Go’s self-checkout concept store and Amazon Fresh online grocery ordering. Additionally, Amazon will find a way to reward its Prime members by shopping at Whole Foods. In any case, just remember—be careful what you ask Alexa to do for you.

Overview by Raymond Pucci, Associate Director, Research Service at Mercator Advisory Group

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