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Prime issues with Amazon

Profitless to compete with Amazon?

Speculation about how Amazon will change Whole Foods is running rampant. I click on news stories only to find that experts are being quoted who have absolutely no real information about what Amazon plans to do. Why would Amazon tip their hand at this point anyway??

One thing is clear. The grocery business will be restructured. At least Krogers' CEO expects it will

Vox: The real reason Amazon buying Whole Foods terrifies the competition, 2017-Jun-20 by Matthew Yglesias

Competing with Amazon is terrifying for any incumbent business because the company’s executive team operates on a radical model whereby the company’s overall net income is nearly zero quarter after quarter.

That is by design, not because they can’t come up with any ways to make money. On the contrary, to the best of anyone’s knowledge many of Amazon’s specific lines of business — including, notably, Amazon Web Services — are perfectly profitable. But while Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook hire lawyers and accountants to amass vast stockpiles of cash legally held in overseas tax haven subsidiaries, Amazon simply chooses to barely accumulate any cash at all.

That’s an enormous problem for every grocery chain in America, which already operate on razor-thin margins. Nobody thinks Amazon bought Whole Foods in order to siphon off Whole Foods’ operating profits in order to subsidize something else. A Whole Foods under Amazon’s stewardship will almost certainly accept lower profit margins than it does as an independent chain — and that spells trouble for everyone else in the grocery business. 

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Of course the nightmare scenario for the supermarket industry is that acquiring Whole Foods does allow Amazon to fundamentally crack the grocery home-delivery game in a way that leads Kroger to go the way of Borders.

But the reason the takeover is such a disaster for the industry is that the financial implications are bleak even if Amazon doesn’t succeed in bringing incredible game-changing innovation to the sector. Introducing a player into the market that doesn’t care about profit margins is going to be devastating to competitors who have to.

They won’t necessarily be put out of business, but they will be forced to respond to lower prices and lower margins with lower prices and lower margins of their own — making the current round of dividend hikes extremely difficult to maintain. From the standpoint of an executive at a conventional business it must seem extraordinarily unfair. 

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