Portending a day when its smile logo will be the satisfied grin of the beast that swallowed the entire world, Amazon has announced plans to purchase Whole Foods in a deal valued at $13.7 billion. Acquiring the charming little mom-and-$8-“natural”-pop store, which boasts more than 460 locations in the U.S., Canada, and U.K., marks Amazon’s biggest foray yet into the brick-and-mortar arena that it all but demolished with its gradually all-encompassing online retail. For Whole Foods, the deal means a chance to shake itself free of private equity investors who have become increasingly frustrated with the chain’s slow growth, shrinking profits, inability to fend off competition, and the fact that the MaraNatha Almond Butter contains palm oil, which everyone knows is not sustainable.
Before Jeff Bezos fired up his room-sized Alexa and asked it to buy him a mega-grocery, Amazon had already made some inroads into food with its AmazonFresh grocery delivery services, as well as by testing out grocery pickup locations in Seattle and a fully automated convenience store. It also recently opened up a handful of bookstores that similarly remove the pesky “human” element, stocking a limited selection of titles based on the site’s popularity algorithm.
As of now, Amazon claims it has no plans to automate Whole Foods, replace its cashiers with cameras and sensors, or apply its technology to, say, only stock the food products that meet the refined tastes of people who actually rate things on Amazon. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey will remain on as CEO and insists in a statement that things will remain more or less the same, only bigger and more holistically monolithic.
The deal has not yet been approved by Whole Foods shareholders, though it’s expected to close in the second half of 2017—that is, if it doesn’t run afoul of Donald Trump, who has previously warned Bezos that he would go after Amazon for its “huge antitrust problem,” saying last year at a campaign rally, “Believe me, if I become president, oh do they have problems, they are going to have such problems.” The fact that Bezos owns The Washington Post, which is a newspaper in the era of Trump, certainly doesn’t help. Still, Bezos has met with Trump previously and will do so again as part of a consortium of technology leaders—and in the end, money is money. Oh, such money, believe me.
News of Amazon’s impending deal has already seen share prices drop for other retailers who are now squarely in Amazon/Whole Foods’ path, such as WalMart, Target, Costco, and Kroger—all of whom now have to worry about Amazon using its newly acquired storefronts to begin selling food, alongside whatever else it wants, including more of its own branded products. Someday soon, you could conceivably use your Amazon Echo to order some Amazon 360 Organic Pizza, get in the car you bought from Amazon (they just started doing that too!) and drive over to pick it up from the local Amazon Foods Market, then it back to your Alexa-and-Dash-equipped smart-house to eat in front of the TV you bought from Amazon, while you watch a movie you download from Amazon Prime. We recommend RoboCop.
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