4 in 10 Whole Foods Patrons Favor Amazon Deal

Amazon.com's bid for Whole Foods Market has found favor with roughly four out of 10 patrons of the Austin, Texas-based natural grocer, new research has revealed.

The study, from New York-based market researcher GfK, says 38 percent of Whole Foods shoppers feel positive about the expected acquisition, while 41 percent are neutral and only 18 percent have negative feelings about the deal. Meanwhile, 31 percent of Amazon shoppers and 43 percent of shoppers at both retailers are upbeat about Whole Foods' purchase by the Seattle-based ecommerce giant.

“Those who already shop with one or both companies see a variety of opportunities for amped-up convenience and selection,” said Wendy Wallner, EVP of GfK’s retail industry practice in North America. “The partnership makes sense to them; they want to buy Whole Foods’ products online, and they trust the quality – typically the biggest barrier with purchasing fresh groceries online.

“In addition, among shoppers generally, the potential for taking e-grocery to a level only dreamed of seems within reach. With Whole Foods’ strengths in both fresh and prepared foods, Amazon now has the ability to offer meal and grocery delivery – suddenly competing with companies like Blue Apron and covering all aspects of food e-commerce.”

GfK's research found that three in four Whole Foods shoppers have made at least one Amazon purchase in the past month – significantly higher than the average (50 percent) among non-Whole Foods shoppers. The study also revealed a higher incidence of Amazon Prime membership among Whole Foods shoppers than among U.S. consumers as a whole (50 percent versus 37 percent).

Among those who are positive about the alliance, hopes for convenience and technological innovation are high. Four in 10 (42 percent) would like to see free grocery delivery for Amazon Prime members, one-third (34 percent) are hoping that Amazon will bring technologies in-store that make shopping easier, and one-quarter (25 percent) now feel reassured that they will be able to get high-quality fresh food online.

The GfK study showed that half (49 percent) of Whole Foods shoppers hope that the new alliance will lead to lower grocery prices. The same percentage also want to see their local Whole Foods outlet remain open – in fact, they hope that Amazon will open more outlets – and 44 percent don't want to see current store employees laid off. Rather, they want to see local businesses thrive and hope that sales associate morale won't suffer.

“To fulfill the promise of this alliance,” Wallner continued, “the two retailers need to pay close attention to their customers’ hopes and concerns, and avoid missteps that could deflate the high expectations of these early days. In particular, Amazon needs to recognize that Whole Foods shoppers are much different from mainstream shoppers, and that it needs to rise to this occasion by maintaining the grocery chain’s brand values and high quality standards.”

Amazon offered $13.7 billion on June 16 to purchase the beleaguered grocer, which had faced several consecutive quarters of same-store sales declines due to increased competition in the natural and organic space, deflation in food costs and other dilemmas.

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