Amazon shakes up retail with $13.7bn Whole Foods deal

At least one local shopper at the Andover Whole Foods store had a much different perspective on the deal.

Amazon could have built up its groceries business without acquisitions, but that would have been costly and time-consuming, said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.

Adrienne Anderson, at a Whole Foods in Savannah, Georgia, says she shops at Whole Foods nearly exclusively for meat and fresh produce "because of the quality and selection" and because fruits and vegetables are locally sourced.

Set up in 1978, Whole Foods, whose stores now span more than 430 locations, has found it hard to attract more mainstream consumers as Walmart and other large chains have stepped up their sales of natural and organic products.

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John Meyer, a portfolio and security analyst, said a "price war" between brick and mortar stores is already occurring.

The deal has the possibility to be "transformative", Moody's lead retail analyst Charlie O'Shea said in a note, "not just for food retail, but for retail in general".

Shares of dozens of supermarkets, food producers, payment processors and shopping malls collectively lost at least $35 billion in US market value on Friday as the news reverberated across financial markets. It announced Friday that it's buying online men's clothing retailer Bonobos for $310 million in cash, following a string of online acquisitions including ModCloth and Moosejaw.

Some workers at the nonunion grocery chain wondered whether Amazon, known for its hard-driving culture, would mean big changes to their pay, benefits or employment.

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It's unclear what Amazon will do with Whole Foods stores as they will remain under the Whole Foods brand and under Mackey's guidance, but Amazon will likely use them to expedite delivery and as a testing ground for any number of tech and customer-focused experiments. The activist hedge fund had been pressuring the grocery chain to make major changes in its management or find a buyer.

"Dominant players like Walmart, Kroger, Costco and Target now have to look over their shoulders at the Amazon train coming down the tracks", O'Shea said. The shopper's Amazon account gets automatically charged.

"I think that they are a very profit-driven company, so there might be some streamlining as far as labour", said Sasha Hardin, 28, of the Mount Pleasant store, who has been with Whole Foods for 6-1/2 years. However, Whole Foods does not have access to Instacart's financial numbers and analytics.

"This deal should leave no doubt that Amazon is deadly serious about dominating all aspects of retail", said Mr Paul Cuatrecasas, chief executive of Aquaa Partners, a London-based investment banking firm, in an e-mail. Although frequently criticized for its high prices, Whole Foods has found its home in the food industry and continues to be the grocery store of choice for many consumers.

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Completion of Amazon's purchase is subject to approval by Whole Foods' shareholders, regulatory OKs and other closing conditions. Kroger , which was rumored to be considering takeover of Whole Foods as well a year ago , was down 9%.

And shoppers are a picky bunch, saying they would be looking for the best prices, good quality and convenience when it comes to online food delivery. Amazon could integrate it with technological advancements to improve the shopping experience, and, in turn, help Whole Foods rein in revenue. That fits with Whole Foods private-label push to compete on price, and gives Amazon a bigger foundation on which to develop its own food brands. Or someone who buys granola bars monthly from Whole Foods and paper towels every other week from Amazon might be offered the items in a single shipment, delivered to the door. "It's just curious, isn't it, that Amazon has offered so many things online".

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