March 18 2018

Whole Foods CEO calls deal with Amazon 'whirlwind courtship'

March 18 2018, 05:18 | Geraldine Moore

Up in the air Tesco shares rose this morning

A Tesco plastic bag blows in the wind

Chief Executive John Mackey said Inc.'s pursuit of the health food chain began with "a blind date" more than six weeks ago, a whirlwind courtship that culminated in Amazon's largest acquisition by far. More selection, lower prices and delivery accuracy will be the pillars on which to build a successful acquisition.

Some Wall Street analysts are starting to wonder whether another retailer will come up with a higher offer and start a bidding war for the Whole Foods grocery chain.

In 1997, just two years after selling its first book, went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the symbol AMZN with a stock price of $18 a share. This is because of the obvious difference between the typical Amazon package and fresh produce, which does not have as many issues with shelf life. Analysts at RBC Capital and Cowen, while not effectively downgrading the warehouse-club giant, did single out Costco as a potential casualty in Amazon's big push into physical retail of groceries.

Portalatin said Whole Foods' store network could go a long way bridging the so-called "last mile" gap between Amazon fulfillment centers and people's homes.

"Many will do anything to either make this acquisition more costly for Amazon, or prevent the asset from landing in Amazon's lap", Short wrote in a note to clients. "The online component of grocery is going to be growing at some 20 percent a year". The fact that food sales are not the core of Amazon's business is likely keeping Loblaw, Sobeys and Metro up at night.

"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. (LAUGHTER) And I said, "I know". "It's just that Walmart has the brand of kitty litter I like". Industry observers have said that Amazon may add a selection of discounted, non-organic food to distance the chain from its "Whole Paycheck" nickname. "I think we're choosing very, very well for ourselves". "I live around the corner and can get everything right here".

But Amazon didn't wipe out Best Buy. They have the same incredible spirit that propelled you and John Mackey to success.

He named the company Amazon because it sounded "exotic and different" - but also because the Amazon river is the largest in the world and he wanted his online store to be the largest in the world as well. What are the consequences for food retailers worldwide? Other deals could follow the Amazon-Whole Foods announcement, with Credit Suisse analysts saying that mergers represent "the path to survival".

Kroger has been investing in so-called "click-and-collect" technology, which allows customers to order online and pick up their groceries at a store. It has been making efforts to grow its online presence, buying the online apparel vendor Bonobos for $310 million and offering free, two-day shipping on millions of items. The deal has such wide-reaching ramifications that it will impact a number of competitors, investors and companies outside of the grocery business as well. "Kroger has been investing for this day". They may not want to let an Amazon worker make that choice. One firm that has been delivering groceries since 1952 is Schwan's. He explained that he and a few senior executives flew up to Seattle to meet with Amazon counterparts.

The threat from Amazon is real and things will change quickly.

One trick for the online food purveyors is to win and retain value shoppers like Ms. McGuire of Marlborough.

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