Amazon to deliver groceries from Whole Foods for Prime members

Amazon to deliver groceries from Whole Foods for Prime members

Since Amazon bought Whole Foods a year ago, rival grocers have been working to increase delivery, anxious about what Amazon might do. Target bought grocery-delivery company Shipt late past year.

"We're happy to bring our customers the convenience of free two-hour delivery through Prime Now", Whole Foods CEO John Mackey says in the announcement.

Yesterday, the tech giant-grocery store duo announced Prime members are now eligible for free two-hour deliveries on orders over $35 from Whole Foods. The company isn't saying where delivery will expand, but its Prime Now service is in more than 30 cities, including Chicago, Milwaukee and San Diego. And Amazon itself has tried, and failed, to get into the grocery business in the past. The opportunity is enormous: to make the same waves it made in books and electronics, it would have to persuade millions of customers to start ordering their groceries online.

It's unclear whether this will exacerbate the troubles Whole Foods stores have had recently with empty shelves, a problem related to an inventory management system introduced before the Amazon purchase.

The initially-small foray into same-day delivery is just the beginning of what Moody's lead retail analyst Charlie O'Shea calls "unlocking" of the real value of the Whole Foods acquisition. For one, grocery stores aren't warehouses, so it often takes reconfiguring to efficiently find and package fresh food for delivery.

He added that Amazon's foray into grocery delivery is also likely to put particular pressure on third-party services like Instacart, which now offers Whole Foods grocery delivery within one hour for $11.99, and within two hours for $9.99.

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Members can use the app or the website to shop the "vast majority" of Whole Foods stores online. Most of those - about three-quarters - get their orders delivered to their door; the rest pick it up at the store.

If the service rolls out across Whole Foods stores, it will have another 475 locations to use for shipping orders, according to research from William Kirk, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

Once packed, the orders will then be handed off to Amazon Flex delivery drivers.

Shoppers will be able to order meat, seafood and other grocery items through Amazon's Prime Now app and Web site.

Amazon plans to offer the service more broadly in the future. For example, a customer in Austin can shop at Sprouts Farmer's Market, Amazon's own shop, or Whole Foods.

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