The grocery wars will not be won overnight.
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The ripple effects of Amazon’s $13.7 billion Whole Foods deal are only starting to show. Nobody knows exactly what Amazon is going to do the grocery chain, and that uncertainty is freaking everyone out.
The deal has been a convenient scapegoat for Blue Apron’s disappointing IPO. “Amazon’s Whole Foods deal pretty much sunk Blue Apron’s IPO,” screamed one headline. “Jeff Bezos has officially spoiled Blue Apron’s IPO,” declared another.
Now, grocery chain Albertsons has put its plans to go public on hold, Bloomberg reports. Of course, the culprit is Amazon-Whole Foods. Cerberus Capital Management acquired Albertsons in 2006 and planned to take it public in 2015. Those plans stalled after a disappointing profit forecast from Wal-Mart spooked the markets. Albertsons renewed its IPO plans earlier this year. Meanwhile Albertsons attempted to buy Whole Foods but was “spurned.” Now the IPO plans are on ice again:
To convince potential investors of its growth prospects in its 2015 IPO roadshow, Albertsons pitched plans to expand its natural and organic foods offerings. Now, the looming Amazon-Whole Foods tie-up squelches confidence in those hopes.
But I’m not sure I understand the kneejerk dread over the certain, unstoppable path of destruction expected by Amazon-Whole Foods. Is all the gloom because Whole Foods struggled as a public company, therefore all public grocery stories are doomed? Or are we bearish because Amazon is now armed with a chain of physical grocery stores, and therefore all competitors are automatically, without a doubt doomed? And also: Is every story about the grocery industry required to include apocalyptic quotes from experts like, “They don’t have a shot. Traditional grocery is fading fast.”
Whatever effect Amazon-Whole Foods has on the grocery industry, it won’t happen overnight. Even combined, Amazon and Whole Foods are barely a blip on the overall food market in the U.S. As Jefferies points out in its analyst note on the deal: Whole Foods owns just 1.7% of the U.S. grocery market. Amazon owns 0.8%. By comparison, Wal-Mart has around 18% and Kroger is just under 10%. Albertson’s, in third place, is around 6%.
I imagine Amazon has big plans to change its market share. But we have no idea what they look like, or how quickly Amazon, which has been a laggard in food for a decade now, will move. But in the meantime, just to be safe, everybody better panic.