Supermarket guru Phil Lempert recently called Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods a “marriage made in heaven” that’s going to rock an already dynamic food industry. He then advised attendees at SNAC International’s recently held Executive Leadership Forum to be prepared for unexpected times in retail.
“The landscape has changed, and that’s before Amazon bought Whole Foods,” he said. “It is a Wild West. This time in grocery is the most exciting time I’ve ever seen, and I have been in this my entire life. It is the most game-changing thing. It is the scariest thing. And if you’re not ahead of the curve with what’s going on with retail, you’re in trouble.”
He added 90% of all Amazon Prime members live within 10 miles of a Whole Foods location, providing untold synergies to reach new customers. Later in the meeting, John Mackey, c.e.o., Whole Foods, agreed with the marriage analogy but cautioned against speculation, noting the combined companies are just in the initial days of a long journey.
“Imagine you’re a musician coming up with a song. You only have the first few bars of your melody, but people want you to sing the whole song to them, but how can you? You haven’t created the whole song yet,” he observed. “Or you’re writing a novel, but you’ve only written the first couple of chapters of it, and they want to read the whole novel. You can’t tell the narrative of the story while you’re creating it.”
That said, he did add one more tidbit.
“We’re going to do some amazing things,” he told SNAC executives. “We’re still figuring out what we’re going to do.”