Online retail giant Amazon is making a bold expansion into physical stores with a $13.7 billion deal to buy Whole Foods, setting the stage for radical retail experiments that could revolutionize how people buy groceries and everything else.
Amazon could try to use automation and data analysis to draw more customers to stores while helping Whole Foods cut costs and perhaps prices. Meanwhile, the more than 460 Whole Foods stores in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.could be turned into distribution hubs - not just for delivering groceries but as pickup centers for online orders.
"The conventional grocery store should feel threatened and incapable of responding," Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.
Moody's lead retail analyst Charlie O'Shea said the deal could be "transformative, not just for food retail, but for retail in general."
Walmart, which has the largest share of the U.S. food market, has already been pushing harder into e-commerce to build on strength in its stores and groceries. It announced Friday that it's buying online men's clothing retailer Bonobos for $310 million, following a string of online acquisitions including ModCloth and Moosejaw.
But if Amazon can be the one-stop shop for everything - groceries had been one of the key missing elements - customers would have even less of a need to go to Walmart or elsewhere.