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How Could Amazon's Whole Foods Deal Impact Office Products?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017  
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Amazon has sent shockwaves through the food retailing business with its near-$14 billion acquisition of natural and organic food chain Whole Foods.

 

The move has dominated the financial news over the past three days and has been called a game-changer for the food retailing industry, but could there be wider ramifications for the business supplies industry? We suggest a few things to think about…

 

Whole Foods locations could be used as collection points for Amazon online sales, providing customers with more delivery options.

 

Whole Foods stores could act as local distribution hubs for fast delivery, two hours or even less, and give Amazon a stronger last-mile delivery presence.

 

Amazon’s move could have a disruptive effect on the wider food retailing industry. There is already speculation about the need for accelerated consolidation in the mass and grocery sector, and if that happened that would affect vendors that sell into these retailers.

 

Amazon has been testing more consumer-friendly retail concepts, such as its Amazon Go initiative where customers just pick items off shelves without the need to go through a checkout. Acquiring Whole Foods will give it a wider test platform and could lead to faster adoption of some of these shopping innovations as well as speeding up digital transformation in the retail sector in general.

We have previously downplayed the idea of Amazon acquiring retail locations in the business supplies channel because there was no indication that it would make a significant move into the retail space. That has now changed, and the Whole Foods deal validates Amazon’s belief in an omnichannel experience that combines the digital and physical worlds.

 

Could this mean that Amazon now looks to acquire retailers in other business segments, such as office supplies, and that Staples or Office Depot’s stores could be on the Amazon radar? Possibly, especially if Amazon is not happy with the way that Amazon Business is growing; it hasn’t updated its customer and sales figures on Amazon Business in the US since April 2016. Is that because the growth rate has slowed and it’s not getting the traction it thought it would after Amazon Business’ initial success?

 

The Whole Foods acquisition is reportedly being driven by difficulties Amazon was having in growing its Amazon Fresh grocery delivery business. If Amazon Business is stalling or not growing fast enough, then why wouldn’t Amazon look at buying growth? We now know that this strategy is part of Amazon’s playbook.


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