Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

Whole Foods prices to get cheaper, says Amazon

46566 full Amazon Gets Deep Into a Cut-throat Supermarket Scene (AMZN)
Kelvin Reese | 29 August, 2017, 00:54

After completing its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods on Monday, Amazon slashed the prices of dozens of items at all 460 of its new grocery stores. The company also said eventually Prime members will receive "special savings and in-store benefits". Amazon reduced the price of Organic Fuji Apples by 43 percent - from $3.49 a pound to $1.99. It's a quick and potentially impactful move given that Whole Foods is traditionally known for its high prices, earning it the sassy nickname, "Whole Paycheck". Food-price inflation has outpaced overall US inflation as tracked by the Consumer Price Index, rising 23.2 percent against the 17.6 percent rise in the CPI.

Whole Foods opened its 32,000-square-foot location at Colonie Center in 2014 on the southwest corner of what was once part of the adjacent Sears store.

Amazon Echo displays have begun popping up in strategic locations in Whole Foods across the country, sporting tongue in cheek signs that market the "farm fresh" device as the 'pick of the season'.

Adding Whole Foods benefits should help Amazon attract more shoppers to its successful Prime scheme, which features two-day shipping for eligible purchases and unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows. The acquisition probably has less to do with the grocery business and more to do with eliminating one annoying aspect of online shopping.

"Goodbye, Whole Foods as we know it", Karen Short, an analyst at Barclays Capital in NY, said in a note.

Whole Foods will also be integrated more closely with Amazon's retail site, with frozen Whole Catch products being offered for sale on Amazon's various grocery e-commerce sites. The 365 brand is the flagship off-price organic private label for Whole Foods, but the retailer had not yet expanded it online.

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Amazon to cut Whole Foods prices, escalating grocery turf war
Of note, Amazon does suggest that it plans to lower prices across the board at Whole Foods, not just for Prime subscribers. According to Morgan Stanley, Whole Foods prices are now about 15 percent higher than the average grocery store.

John Mackey will remain chief executive of Whole Foods and the company will operate as a subsidiary and continue to be headquartered in Austin, Texas, the companies said on Thursday.

Once managers and investors at these grocery chains feel enough pressure from a combined Amazon/Whole Foods behemoth, a wave of consolidation might sweep the sector.

Whole Foods has always taken pride in offering top-of-the-line organic and natural foods. Wall Street might come down on Amazon a little harder - might say they're over-leveraged, spending too much money, in a war with WalMart.

So although Amazon may have room to slash prices at Whole Foods, it may not be as much as some think, or it may have a much steeper impact on the bottom line.

"There was a lot of speculation that Whole Foods might be left as more of an independent entity, at least in the beginning phases of the acquisition", she said. Amazon said last week it plans to make more price cuts. Amazon has not indicated whether it will break out Whole Foods operations in its financial statements or fold them into its current retail operations.

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