Amazon to Buy Whole Foods for $13.7 Billion

Amazon has a patent to keep you from comparison-shopping while you're in its stores

With the Whole Foods acquisition, analysts anticipate that Amazon will be the third largest retail grocery, behind Wal-Mart and Kroger, by 2021.

Online retail giant Amazon announced on Friday that it had reached a definitive agreement to acquire Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion.

Amazon, which is sitting on US$21.5 billion in cash, has recently begun experimenting with bookstores and a small grocery but this is by far its most ambitious move into physical retail. Wal-Mart, which has the largest share of the USA food market, has been working on lowering prices, while Target has been struggling to turn around its grocery business.

The stakes are highest for Wal-Mart.

Amazon has been dipping its toes in groceries since it launched its Amazon Fresh delivery service a decade ago in Seattle, and expanded it to California, New York, and the Philadelphia area.

Now that Amazon is in the brick-and-mortar business selling books and groceries, who knows where it will set its sights next? "We're playing offense", he said.

Amazon is buying Whole Foods in a $13.7B deal.

Amazon also has been testing automation technology at a Seattle convenience store that's now open only to Amazon employees. "It's exciting to see some more substantial moves".

The Austin Chamber of Commerce sent Fox 7 a statement saying in part: "It's great to hear that Whole Foods, an iconic homegrown company, will remain an integral part of our local community". You can think of it like a Trader Joe's store, but built for the internet.

"Whole Foods Market will continue to operate stores under the Whole Foods Market brand and source from trusted vendors and partners around the world", Amazon said in a press release. The top 10 grocery retailers plus Amazon control less than half of the market, Blackledge says, and a patchwork of several hundred grocery chains, convenience stores, dollars stores as well as mom and pop stores make up the remainder. Whole Foods shares were trading just under that level in early trading on Friday, as investors saw negligible regulatory risk to the deal closing.

As sales have slumped, Whole Foods executives have tried to highlight what distinguishes it from rivals. In the first quarter this year, food-and-drink sales at American brick-and-mortar stores were down by nearly $3 billion even as grocery trips rose, according to market research firm Nielsen. Wal-Mart reported $6.9 billion in cash and equivalents and $20.9 billion in free cash flow at its year ended January 31.

"Amazon's brutal vision for retail is one where automation replaces good jobs". It will select merchandise based on Amazon's vaunted customer data, and potentially expects the use of technology to change prices during the course of a day.

The more than 460 Whole Foods stores in the United States, Canada and the UK could also be turned into distribution hubs - not just for delivering groceries, but also as pick-up centres for online orders. Amazon also offers grocery shipments elsewhere, but that's tough with perishable foods.

"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.

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