Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
Money | By Armando Alvarado

For Whole Foods workers, fears of robots, drones and culture clash

Wal-Mart was just one of the many retailers whose stocks were impacted by the news that Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods.

Amazon is buying Whole Foods Market, for $42 per share in a deal that values the grocery outlet at $US13.7 billion.

"They're doing an unbelievable job and we want that to continue", Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said.

Whole Foods will continue to operate stores under its brand and will continue to be led by co-founder and chief executive John Mackey, the companies said.

The New York Times said the Amazon purchase of Whole Foods gives the online giant a tremendous boost in its proximity to customers within 90 minutes or less.

News of the deal sent shares of traditional retailers such as Walmart, Target, Costco and Kroger tumbling as much as 13 per cent as investors tried to digest the implications of an Amazon-backed grocery chain.

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Completion of Amazon's purchase is subject to approval by Whole Foods' shareholders, regulatory OKs and other closing conditions.

Marc Perrone, head of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents millions of grocery workers, said that Amazon's "brutal vision for retail is one where automation replaces good jobs". The shopper's Amazon account gets automatically charged. Shoppers simply pick the items they want off the shelves and leave the store.

Meanwhile, in a letter to its customers, Whole Foods Market, Inc.

Despite mixed reviews, Amazon opened its seventh shop last month in the Time Warner Centre at Columbus Circle in NY, and plans to open another this year.

"It's pharmacy. It's having the ability to put stores that are similar to Apple stores inside Whole Foods", he said. We hope that won't be the case with this proposed acquisition of Whole Foods. This is by far the largest acquisition Amazon has ever made. "That is the reality today at Amazon, and it will no doubt become the reality at Whole Foods". The Seattle-based company already offers discounted Amazon Prime memberships for people receiving government assistance and is part of a pilot program to deliver groceries to food-stamp recipients. The natural foods retailer helped start a trend toward natural and organic foods, but its stock has struggled in recent years and recently the company shook up its board and said it would cut costs.

Both Amazon and Whole Foods cater to younger consumers including millennials as well as the affluent. With the deal, Whole Foods' more than 460 stores become a test bed with which Amazon can learn how to compete with Wal-Mart's 4,700 stores with a large grocery offering that are also within 10 miles (16 km) of 90 percent of the US population. And it should be able to bring cost-cutting technologies, such as robots to move inventory around, while the company gets a better picture of customers by marrying data from Amazon and Whole Foods' loyalty programs.

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