How Will The $13.7 Billion Whole Foods Acquisition Impact Boston?

Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, must have gotten bored of space exploration because now he’s moved on to…food? Yes! On June 16th of this year, Amazon acquired the natural grocery chain, Whole Foods, for a whopping $13.7 billion dollars. Along with this deal came many questions, but perhaps the most important (and seemingly, easiest) question of all is: Why?

Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion

Image Courtesy of www.CNBC.com

Jeff Bezos is notably hungry for growth and has been devising a way to expand his reach for quite a while now. Bezos saw an $800-billion-dollar industry dangling in front of him and pounced! Breaking into the grocery delivery industry has been considered by many as Amazon’s  very own “Waterloo.” However, there is no need for concern over Amazon becoming a monopoly. According to Nitasha Tiku, a writer for Wired Business, “Amazon combining with Whole Foods would still only account for 3.5 percent of spending in an $800 billion industry.” So, if Amazon monopolizing isn’t of concern, then what is?

Perhaps it’s the way this merger could potentially effect Whole Food’s employees, dispose of Whole Foods core values, or shake the surface of our beloved Boston.

Whole Foods Employee

Image Courtesy of www.BusinessInsider.com

Whole Foods has been known to put their employees, or “team members,” first, even at the expense of their costumers. Amazon, however, has a very different mantra. Amazon puts the consumer first, then works backward to figure out everything else. John Mackey, Whole Food’s CEO, admitted foolishness in the way his company has disregarded their consumers and vows “to become as customer-centric as Amazon.” Although this may mean lower prices for us (score!), what will it mean for the 90,000 Whole Foods employees?

Although both companies promised there will be no layoffs, people are still speculating. Amazon’s trial store, which launched in Seattle, has no employees at all. The “Amazon Go” store allows you to fill your bags with goods and just walk out the door. Amazon’s innovative technology scans the items in your bag as you leave and automatically charges your Amazon Prime account. Even if there are no layoffs like the companies promised, there will possibly be an end to Whole Food’s team members. With talks of cutting prices and putting customers first, there will be no room to continue handing out the benefits Whole Food’s employees have been receiving.

 

Whole Foods Cambridge Street

Image Courtesy of www.FoodIdeal.com

Just last week I asked the cashier at Whole Foods on Cambridge Street why she was beaming as she rang up my groceries. “I don’t know; I just really love working here. I’m having a good time,” she replied. But now I’m left to wonder what her future will hold after this takeover.

Another cause of concern has been over Whole Foods disposing of their commitment to providing customers with fresh, natural, and high-quality food. John Mackey ensured the public that the future of Whole Foods and its core values are in safe hands. He also mentioned that “Over time, there could be other formats that evolve that wouldn’t be branded Whole Foods Market, potentially, wouldn’t be our standards.” So, take that how you want.

Whole Foods donating to Boston food bank

Image Courtesy of www.gbfb.com

Now, how will this acquisition affect Boston and surrounding communities? One of Whole Food’s core values is to give back to the communities they are located in. According to The Boston Globe, Whole Foods has accelerated their local food donations immensely. Specifically, by 50 percent which has resulted in 3 million, and growing, pounds of food given away to local Boston food banks and non-profits every year.

Mackey has been quoted saying that one of Amazon’s core values Whole Foods will adapt is “frugality.” Now, giving away 3 million pounds of food doesn’t sound too frugal to me. Will this good deed continue? Or will Boston food banks find themselves at a shortage in the coming years? We’re just as curious as you are to see how it all plays out.

Will the average Bostonians grocery experience be a quick in-and-out trip as opposed to a social interaction? Will the Whole Foods of Boston be filled with men and women constantly looking down at their shopping list on their smartphones? What will happen to all the Boston Whole Foods employees? Will Boston’s economy take a dip?

And let’s not forget the big question my roommate has been asking all week: “what will happen to Trader Joe’s?”

If you’re excited about the new Amazon grocery stores, you should check out our article on the first Amazon bookstore in Massachusetts!

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