Amazon announced Thursday that its acquisition of Whole Foods will be completed on Monday — and customers will see changes immediately.
“We’re determined to make healthy and organic food affordable for everyone. Everybody should be able to eat Whole Foods Market quality — we will lower prices without compromising Whole Foods Market’s long-held commitment to the highest standards,” said Jeff Wilke, chief executive of AmazonWorldwide Consumer, in a news release detailing the changes.
That means the days of “Whole Paycheck” are over. Whole Foods was maligned for years for its high prices — this reporter recalls once arriving at the cash register shocked to discover that three apples would cost her nearly $7 — which it has tried to address over its history. It introduced its own generic brand, distributed digital coupons, and launched lower-price spinoff stores in select markets. But still, it could never shake its reputation as a grocery store for rich people who are willing to shell out precious dollars for asparagus water and ornamental kale.
The Amazon acquisition could do more to eliminate that old nickname more than any of the store’s previous measures. It’s also a move that many — including The Post — predicted would come swiftly. And it’s just the first step: Soon after that, Amazon will integrate Amazon Prime as a customer rewards program for Whole Foods shoppers, and Prime members will get extra discounts and offers. Whole Foods’s private-label brands will soon be available for purchase online through Amazon Fresh and Prime Pantry.
And eventually, mirroring another prediction of Amazon-watchers, Whole Foods will offer Amazon Lockers in stores for customers to stop by and pick up Amazon purchases — and probably buy some groceries while they’re at it. As online grocery shopping grows, it’s an immediate answer to Amazon’s “last mile” delivery problem — shorthand for the idea that, the closer you get to a product’s final destination, the more challenges you have in delivering it. Whole Foods stores give Amazon refrigerated distribution centers close to where people live, which “adds to Amazon’s cachet and eases concerns of customers that their perishable food comes from two to three miles from their homes where a Whole Foods is located, instead of an Amazon distribution center that could be farther afield,” wrote Michelle Lodge for the Street. “Freshness counts.”
The Amazon news release teased at other changes to come, once the companies “integrate logistics and point-of-sale and merchandising systems.” Future changes could include eliminating checkout lines, which Amazon has already done at its cashless Amazon Go store in Seattle (going cashless, while convenient for middle class customers, would also inhibit access to fresh groceries for unbanked households, which would affect more than 15 million American adults). At that store, a combination of technology including sensors, machine learning and computer vision can detect what customers are purchasing. As long as they have the Amazon Go app, they can just walk out of the store, and their Amazon account will automatically be charged. Other Amazon innovations, such as the Amazon Dash Wand, a home bar code scanner, are likely to make their way into Whole Foods stores somehow, too.
Until then: Stock up on avocados. You probably couldn’t afford the Whole Foods ones until now, anyway.
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