Whole Foods is facing culture shock:

In the good old days (July, for example) vendors would send their reps into Whole Foods stores, often not even bothering to set up a formal appointment, to check on inventory, monitor product placements, hand out some free samples or just say hello to the store’s buyers. Those days seem to be drawing to a close.

Under Amazon’s ownership, the rules are changing. The traditional relationship between Whole Foods and its vendors (call it informal, laid-back or freewheeling) is now subject to much stricter controls.

It hasn’t been widely reported, but Whole Foods is tightening the leash. There’s long been an internet portal for vendors, and there’s increasing pressure on vendors to use the web to manage their products. And they’ve got to get permission from district managers to actually set foot inside the store, even to do a spot-check on inventory.

I suspect that people knew it is was coming, but what will be the extent of the changes that are being made? What will be the impact over time?  What will Whole Foods look like 1,5, or 10 years from now?  Perhaps it doesn’t matter as Amazon has been known for continuously evolving.  Additionally, it’s encouraging to see that Whole Foods products are not only flowing out of stores, but also online through Amazon.

The first thing Amazon did after taking over Whole Foods was to slash prices on a number of popular items. That produced a bump in foot traffic, a brief phenomenon that probably won’t last without more significant cuts. Meantime, Amazon reports that it has sold $1.6 million worth of Whole Foods private label products on its own website in the first month of its ownership. That may show the direction Amazon wants to take the new company: online, where it dominates the market.

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