How Amazon could change your Whole Foods

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There’s one big question likely on your mind now that Amazon has rung up its largest purchase everwith the $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods Market: How will CEO Jeff Bezos change my local Whole Foods store?

Just like Amazon.com’s product offerings, the possibilities are limitless. Depending on how you shop, this deal could mean eventually you never have to set foot in a Whole Foods store again —- because you would order online, drive up to the store and have your groceries stuffed in the trunk, or have them delivered straight to your front door.

Or, you could make a Whole Foods your neighborhood hangout, where you come in, order a beer or glass of wine and sit down at a touchscreen display — and open your Amazon or Whole Foods app. After inputting your grocery list, someone gathers all your goodies up while you dine on pizza or a sandwich. Maybe even test the latest Alexa-powered devices.

A COMPUTER BAR IN THE STORE?

“It can be more of an all-encompassing experience,” said Karyl Leggio, a professor of finance at Loyola University’s Sellinger School of Business. “If you have a Whole Foods with a bar area you could have some computers, you could sit there and shop at Amazon and (see) some sample product they have there. That’s a great extension for Amazon.”

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Things won’t change overnight at the more than 460 Whole Foods stores, but some have already become destinations for more than organic foods. In addition to having prepared foods to go, many have morphed into full-blown restaurants — nicknamed”grocerants” — even with a bar serving wine and local and regional craft beers on tap.

GROCERY PICKUP CENTERS?

And Amazon has very publicly been experimenting with new ways to transform the grocery shopping experience, from drive-up pickup of online orders to checkout line-free shopping. So it makes sense that some of those might make their way to Whole Foods stores with the online retailing giant now its parent company.

“Amazon brings capacities that were not in-house for Whole Foods, such as delivery,” said Darren Seifer, a retail and grocery analyst with NPD Group. “They could also add grocery pickup centers, Amazon’s ‘click and collect’ model.”

Amazon would not comment on its vision for Whole Foods, but most of those stores represent prime real estate, in well-traveled urban and suburban areas with not only high-income shoppers, but also shoppers across a wide demographic swath. Remember, Amazon recently offered lower-priced Prime membership to shoppers who qualify for government assistance. “They are really trying to play the entire consumer base,” Leggio said.

LOWER PRICES ON THE WAY?

Higher prices at Whole Foods has been a detractor for some shoppers. In fact, it has a nasty nickname of “Whole Paycheck,” meaning that shopping there takes a chunk of your salary. “Whole Foods is a great brand. That is its one negative,” said Larry Light, co-author of Six Rules for Brand Revitalization and CEO of marketing consulting firm Arcature. “Amazon will make that go away.”

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