What does the Amazon/Whole Foods deal mean for Metuchen?

June 16, 2017: The first question that came to mind when the announcement came across the wire Friday morning that Amazon was going to make its largest acquisition ever by buying Whole Foods Markets was, ‘what does this mean for Metuchen?’

My thought was, Amazon doesn’t need brick and mortar stores, right? The company is all about delivery. One way to quickly convert some of those assets into cash and help finance the deal is to sell or at least sell and lease back real estate — a tried-and-true method used by private equity firms when buying retail businesses.

However, Amazon has been trying to figure out ways to break into the grocery business and has been making inroads through its Amazon Fresh delivery service. And now it is buying itself more than 400 hard assets in the form of stores across 42 states — a massive network that has already figured out how to buy local and keep these precious, expensive products fresh.

With the acquisition, Amazon will be able to deliver these perishable items quicker to customers. The tech giant has designs on building physical stores to locate services closer to customers’ homes. From the New York Times in March:

And in groceries — a giant category in which Amazon has struggled — the company has opened a convenience store that does not need cashiers, and it is close to opening two stores where drivers can quickly pick up groceries without leaving their cars, all in Seattle. It has explored another grocery store concept that could serve walk-in customers and act as a hub for home deliveries.

So it seems like what this means is Metuchen’s store, as well as hundreds of others around the country, just got a tech-savvy owner that is all about the live retail experience.

To be clear, this is an announcement and the deal is not yet sealed. It must go through approval processes by shareholders, regulatory and other closing conditions. The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2017, according to the deal announcement.

The Whole Foods store on Lake Avenue is expected to open in the fall. It’s meant to be a 44,000 square foot store employing 170 to 200 people, according to an article in the Sentinel from March.

At the time, Marjorie West, northeast marketing manager for Whole Foods, met with the Chamber of Commerce to give an update on the progress of the Lake Avenue location .

“We are very excited. Whole Foods is definitely coming to town. I can’t give a definitive date, but I know by the fall. As we get closer to when I know, we can put a banner of the date of when we will open,” she said, according to the Sentinel.

I have calls in to reps at Whole Foods and Metuchen officials. I’ll update as and when …

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