Amazon said that will close six of its Whole Foods stores - in Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama; Tarzana, California; Brookline, Massachusetts; and the Englewood and DePaul neighborhoods of Chicago. The Englewood store will close "in coming months," while the rest of them are slated to be shuttered this week.
The units being closed represent about one percent of the company's total US fleet. However, the announcement grabbed attention because it was just a couple of months ago that Amazon announced that it was closing down all of its bricks-and-mortar bookstores and 4-Star stores, while putting more emphasis on its Amazon Fresh grocery stores, Amazon Go convenience stores, and a new chain of fashion-oriented stores.
The move also drew criticism in Chicago, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot called it "disappointing," especially because in some communities consumers don't have many choices in terms of supermarket shopping.
“Together with both communities and local elected leaders, my administration will work to repurpose these locations in a way that continues to serve the community and support the surrounding businesses,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “We as a city will continue to work hard to close food deserts that meet community needs with community at the table.”
Bloomberg notes that "the Englewood location opened in 2016 with great fanfare by then Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had advocated for it as a way to bring fresh food and economic opportunity to a lower income, minority community on the city’s South Side. Amazon this month opened a new Whole Foods near the Chicago River North and Gold Coast neighborhoods."
An Amazon spokesperson said, "As we continue to position Whole Foods Market for long-term success, we regularly evaluate the performance and growth potential of each of our stores, and we have made the difficult decision to close six stores … We are supporting impacted Team Members through this transition and expect that all interested, eligible Team Members will find positions at our other locations."
Politico quotes Illinois House Speaker Emanuel Welch as lashing out at Amazon on Twitter over the decision: “Jeff Bezos is worth $180 BiILLION dollars, takes joy rides into outer space, but takes away healthy food options to poor people because he cares more about profits than poor people. This is yet another reason why we should tax billionaires like Bezos more!”
Politico also provides this analysis:
"The store was a welcome addition to a community starved for decent fresh produce. But soon after opening, it was clear that the higher-than-average prices kept its popularity (and profitable) from taking off in a serious way compared the retailer’s other Chicago-area locations.
"Whole Foods stayed committed to the location nonetheless, at least until Amazon bought it in 2017 … It’s not lost on the community that Whole Foods is exiting after vowed to invest in underserved communities in response to the protests of George Floyd’s murder in 2020."
- KC's View:
It might've been better for Whole Foods' image - and Amazon's - if they had decided to convert the Whole Foods stores into something else. Maybe an Amazon Fresh store that would have lower overhead and could be used as a virtual dark store into which customers could venture if they so chose?
It does seem to point to the continued minimizing of CEO John Mackey's role at the company; Mackey is scheduled to retire - and be replaced - later this year. It also seems like a pretty good bet that his replacement may rank high in terms of IQ, but not so high when it comes to EQ.