Last Wednesday the Federal Trade Commission approved Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion. According to The Seattle Times, the government’s green light was anticipated. Whole Foods and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) both have only a small slice of the nation’s $750 billion grocery market. Also on Wednesday, Whole Foods’ shareholders, approved the deal.
‘The FTC conducted an investigation of this proposed acquisition to determine whether it substantially lessened competition under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, or constituted an unfair method of competition under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Based on our investigation we have decided not to pursue this matter further. Of course, the FTC always has the ability to investigate anticompetitive conduct should such action be warranted,’ said Bruce Hoffman, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, in a statement.
Are there truly antitrust concerns here in the grocery industry? According to this chart of grocery store market share for 2016, Walmart has the largest share of the grocery industry in the U.S. at 17.3 percent. Whole Foods comes in ninth at 1.7 percent, and Amazon comes in last at 0.8 percent.
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On Thursday, Amazon announced that the acquisition would close today, August 28. Once finalized, Amazon will own 460 stores in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. To solidify Amazon’s commitment, Whole Foods will lower its prices effective today on a selection of its best-sellers. In addition, Amazon and Whole Foods will work on integrating Amazon Prime into the point-of-sale system at Whole Foods, so Prime members will get special discounts and in-store benefits.
‘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, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, in a statement.
‘To get started, we’re going to lower prices beginning Monday on a selection of best-selling grocery staples, including Whole Trade organic bananas, responsibly-farmed salmon, organic large brown eggs, animal-welfare-rated 85% lean ground beef, and more. And this is just the beginning – we will make Amazon Prime the customer rewards program at Whole Foods Market and continuously lower prices as we invent together. There is significant work and opportunity ahead, and we’re thrilled to get started,’ Wilke added.
John Mackey, Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO, also commented on the company’s new direction. Mackey will remain Whole Foods’ CEO and will work out of the Whole Foods headquarters in Austin, Texas.
‘It’s been our mission for 39 years at Whole Foods Market to bring the highest quality food to our customers. By working together with Amazon and integrating in several key areas, we can lower prices and double down on that mission and reach more people with Whole Foods Market’s high-quality, natural and organic food. As part of our commitment to quality, we’ll continue to expand our efforts to support and promote local products and suppliers. We can’t wait to start showing customers what’s possible when Whole Foods Market and Amazon innovate together,’ Mackey said.
Whole Foods’ private label products, including 365 Everyday Value, Whole Foods Market, Whole Paws and Whole Catch, will be available at Amazon.com and through AmazonFresh, Prime Pantry and prime Now. Amazon will also add Amazon Lockers at Whole Foods for picking up Amazon packages or for returning merchandise bought on Amazon.com. Amazon has said it will open new stores, hiring more employees and expand its support of local farmers. Whole Foods currently has about 87,000 employees, and Amazon has 382,000 employees, according to The Seattle Times.
On Thursday, when Amazon announced that the deal would close Monday, stock closed at $952.45 per share. In after-hours trading Friday, stock had dropped to $945.26.
The week before the FTC’s announcement, President Donald Trump attacked Amazon on Twitter, saying it was doing ‘great damage to tax paying retailers.’
Not everybody loves Amazon or big retail, but Whole Foods’ customers and Prime members have got to be excited about the completion of this deal. Customers will save money when shopping at Whole Foods which is sometimes called ‘whole paycheck’ because it is easy to spend a lot of money when grocery shopping there, while Prime members get additional value for the same price they are already paying.
From a subscription perspective, Amazon has best practices for membership nailed. The company continues to add incremental value to Prime membership, all for $99 a year or $10.99 a month. Amazon Prime members may sign up because of the free shipping or Prime Video, but they’ll stay for all of the other perks, the latest of which happens to be discounts at Whole Foods.
As for President Trump, it is understandable that small retailers are having a tough time competing with Amazon, but if it isn’t Amazon, it will be someone else – Google and Walmart perhaps. As for the loss of jobs, I live in a town with a new Amazon fulfillment center, and the company has provided our community with hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs.