With Whole Foods purchase, Amazon to enter grocery wars

Working to find a place in a crowded but thriving grocery market, online retail powerhouse Amazon said this morning it will buy Whole Foods.

Amazon and Whole Foods Market, Inc. said Friday they have entered into a definitive merger agreement in which Amazon will buy Whole Foods for $42 per share in an cash transaction valued at about $13.7 billion, including Whole Foods Market’s debt, Amazon said in an announcement.

“Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and chief executive, said in his company’s statement. “Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades. They’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

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“This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers,” John Mackey, Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO, said in the same release.

Whole Foods wove its way into a crowded and competitive Dayton grocery market in 2015, with its first Dayton-area store, in Washington Twp. at 1050 Miamisburg-Centerville Road.

Kristin Mullins, president and chief executive of the Ohio Grocers Association, was trying to understand what the just-announced news may mean for her members and customers.

One of her first questions was: What does the acquisition mean for the number of traditional “brick-and-mortar” physical stores in Ohio?

“My first reaction is, we are always concerned when there is some loss of brick-and-mortar stores out there,” Mullins said after just hearing of the news Friday morning.

“As a grocers association, we represent the brick and mortars stores out there,” she added. “Our members work towards all kinds of conveniences in servicing all the consumers we have out there.”

“That being said,” she added, “our core business remains in the brick and mortars.”

The disappearance of those physical shopping stores would be a “loss,” she added.

The grocery and supermarket market in the United States is huge, at $611 billion, but growing at a measured 1 percent pace, according to retail analyst IBIS World.

Madeline Hurley, a grocery analyst with IBIS World, an industry research company,  said it was too early to know for certain what Amazon’s strategy was.

“It is difficult to say what Amazon’s online strategy will be for Whole Foods,” Hurley said. “Whole Foods’ online grocery channel is operated by Instacart, which will likely not be the case for long if the acquisition is approved.”

Completion of Amazon’s purchase is subject to approval by Whole Foods’ shareholders, regulatory OKs and other closing conditions. But those involved expect it to happen in the second half of the year.

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