Saturday, 20 January, 2018

Whole Foods swoop sends Ocado soaring on hopes of Amazon tie-up

Jeannie Matthews | 20 June, 2017, 01:25

Amazon expects to reduce headcount and change inventory to lower prices and make Whole Foods competitive with Wal-Mart Stores and other big-box retailers, according to a person with knowledge of the company's grocery plans. The deal gives Amazon an opportunity to leverage Whole Foods' 460 stores across the USA, United Kingdom and Canada, 87,000 employees and its solid reputation.

Amazon is sinking its teeth deeper on the U.S. market, penetrating the grocery industry scene with its innovative ideas and tech advancement. The upscale grocery chain recently replaced much of its board, added a new CFO and developed plans to slash costs and tweak operations.

"I think retailers are going to have to bring a lot of excitement to the store", said Stew Leonard Jr., CEO of Stew Leonard's, a grocery chain with five locations in CT and NY.

More hubs mean quicker and fresher delivery, which will bolster Amazon's existing grocery delivery service, AmazonFresh.

Mackey has been facing investors' ire because of his strategies that were thought to have resulted in Whole Foods' poor performance. Jana Partners now owns 9 percent of Whole Foods Market. Walmart has been dubbed to be the crowning king of the online food retail business gathering more than one-quarter of the market according to Euromonitor.

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Using computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning, the Amazon Go beta technology can automatically detect when you take something off the shelf and charge it to your Amazon account. Now that it's owned by bargain-friendly Amazon, perhaps the prices at Whole Foods will get a reality check. This was a savvy way to do that and it's expected that Whole Foods stores will be retrofitted to allow shoppers to buy online and pickup at their local store-a solution to the "last mile" expense of home delivery.

Whole Foods was quick to point out, in a statement, that its stores will continue to operate under the Whole Foods Market brand, that its headquarters will remain in Austin, Texas, and that John Mackey will stay on as CEO. Whole Foods will keep operating stores under its name.

The deal is the latest big move for Amazon and its charismatic chief executive Jeff Bezos, who grew Amazon from a small online bookseller in the 1990s into a global retail behemoth that delivers a wide range of goods and creates award-winning entertainment broadcasts. Between the high-end brand that Whole Foods brings to the table and Amazon's mastery of logistics, it may not be long before they both feel the pinch. The chain's high standards for how animals are treated make the higher prices worth it, she said. The grocery business is among the most pedestrian of retail endeavors, and what little profit there is depends largely on fobbing off a lot of the work onto customers.

Retailers such as Dollar General (DG), Dollar Tree (DLTR) and Five Below (FIVE) have been pretty immune to e-commerce pressures to date, thanks largely to their ability to provide rock-bottom prices that an online retailer - even one as efficient as Amazon - is hard-pressed to match.

Even as analysts are working overtime analyzing the implications of, Inc., Whole Foods' e-commerce subsidiary, didn't end well: The company had hoped to take it public, but instead spun it off and took a $500,000 write-down. But a few other things might change eventually, as Amazon seeks to change its new spouse's reputation for pricey products. Why pay for food delivery elsewhere if Amazon is cheaper and easier?


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