Analyst’s Take: The Inevitable Culture Clash Between Amazon and Whole Foods

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Photo credit: Whole Foods Market

The pontificating on the Amazon/Whole Foods merger continues. While I don’t agree with every thought expressed in this article, especially the criticism of Amazon as a heartless employer, I do think it has some provocative and original things to say, especially about why Whole Foods needed to be acquired. There’s a lot of connecting of the dots here:

“[Whole Foods CEO John] Mackey’s was perhaps the clearest articulation of a species of corporate messaging that emerged in the ’90s and took hold in the 2000s: that of the reluctant captain of industry, the community-minded national chain and the compassionate employer. (Think Trader Joe’s, the Container Store, Panera Bread, Starbucks or Jamba Juice.) It was accompanied by the rise of the conscientious—and typically affluent—consumer, for whom purchases could be not just materially but also morally aspirational. The food was ethically sourced, but crucially, the labor was, too.”

Separately, the advent of cold brew coffee, iced coffee that is “made at room temperatures, using cold water. Without the heat, the extraction of oils that occurs in hot brew is avoided, and that makes the product taste sweeter,” is a powerful reminder of how traditional, time-honored categories of consumer products can be transformed very quickly, with a very positive effect on sales.

On the fashion front, you may have read that Colette, the Paris retailer that is probably the most influential store in the entire fashion world, is closing. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit the store, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. This brief article does a great job of capturing the creativity, eclecticism and breadth of vision that made Colette so special.

And for a summer treat, here’s an intentionally humorous, retail-related piece.

Faye Landes, co-founder and general partner of Back to the Future Ventures, advises emerging consumer and retail companies on strategy, branding and fundraising. She was one of Wall Street’s leading consumer and retail analysts for over 20 years and was widely recognized for her ability to anticipate sweeping trends, such as the widespread adoption of activewear. She has frequently appeared on CNBC, Bloomberg TV and other media outlets and has presented at industry conferences all over the world. Read her “Analyst’s Take” column here weekly. Contact her at faye@backtothefutureventures.com.

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