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Markets Right Now: Grocers plunge on Amazon deal; Dow gains

17 June 2017

Amazon is buying Whole Foods Market for US$13.7 billion in a giant leap of a deal that pushes the Internet retailer further into the grocery business and gives it more of a brick-and-mortar presence. What will the acquisition mean for the company's 400-plus stores? Meanwhile, the more than 460 Whole Foods stores in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom could be turned into distribution hubs - not just for delivering groceries but as pickup centers for online orders.

But if Amazon can be the one-stop shop for everything - groceries had been one of the key missing elements - customers would have even less of a need to go to Walmart or elsewhere.

With Whole Foods, Amazon gets an established business that it can transform through its technology and supply network expertise.

Amazon also has been testing automation technology at a Seattle convenience store that's now open only to Amazon employees. Shoppers skip the checkout line, and their Amazon accounts get automatically charged.

"As Amazon has more resources, they might be able to streamline some efficiencies for Whole Foods, allowing the retailer to offer its organic and more sustainable products at more affordable prices", said Lauren Beitelspacher, a marketing professor at Babson College in xxxxx. "They'll fix that fast". Walmart, which has the largest share of the US food market, has been working on lowering prices, while Target has been struggling to turn around its grocery business. Just two years ago, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey told Bloomberg BusinessWeek that Amazon's foray into grocery delivery would be "Amazon's Waterloo".

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"In any case, the customer will be the victor", Loeb wrote. But if customers know that what they are getting is the same as what they'd get at the local store, they are more likely to try it out.

SEATTLE, WA - A man walks past an AmazonFresh Pickup location on June 16, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.

Amazon has agreed to pay $42 per share in cash for Whole Foods, a 27 percent premium on its closing share price on Thursday.

"Assuming the deal passes regulatory muster, the near future of Whole Foods shopping could well involve never walking down a single aisle", Alba wrote.

But Amazon's not going away and that will incite change, he said. "There's a ton of stuff they can do with this real estate".

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Adding to the potential threat, Amazon is known for offering discounts and it's likely to encourage more aggressive pricing at Whole Foods, Michelle Grant, head of retailing at market research firm Euromonitor International, said in a statement.

It would be a natural move for Amazon to encourage shoppers to use its family of smart voice-enabled gadgets - Alexa, Echo, Dash button and the new Dash Wand - to order groceries from their home for delivery or pick up in-store. The stores could also showcase gadgets such as Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets.

"Obviously the big news today is the Amazon announcement of the purchase of Whole Foods which is having effects on various sectors of the market", said David Levy portfolio manager at Republic Wealth Advisors.

"If this strategy proves out for Amazon, you could well imagine it could be opening a bunch more stores or doing more acquisitions just to cover the United States", he said.

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