A story of Amazonian proportions by Pam Denholm
This week, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is final and they are kicking off with price drops on select grocery staples. Their strategy is to put pressure on other new-ish arrivals on the natural and organic food scene: giants like Walmart and Kroger. The gun has been fired, the starting gates flung open and a race to the bottom is underway. Who has the inside track? The stamina? Who’ll win?
While these big players duke it out on the national stage, relying on sales from other departments to carry them while they discount groceries in a fight for market share, what happens to the little guy? What happens to independently owned grocery stores? A year-long price war will be inconvenient for a giant, but it will bankrupt a small business in a matter of months. What does that mean for you and me? For where we live?
Whether you have faith that Jeff Bezos will preserve Whole Foods’ values, or whether you buy into the criticism surrounding his ‘generosity’ and high staff turnover, you have to know Amazon did not acquire Whole Foods to sell cheap apples. Amazon shareholders are mostly banks and investment firms. They are in the race to win it, they are not the crowd handing out free water on the sidelines. Eventually the race will be over and the prices of apples will go back up. It’s inevitable. It’s also inevitable that not everyone will have finished the race. And then what price would we have truly paid for those apples?
Although we are not a grocery store, let’s use SSO as a case study. We spend roughly $250,000 with local farmers every year. These farmers buy their compost locally, they get their well pumps replaced and repaired, locally, they rely on local mechanics, feed stores, and they send their kids to ballet or karate. South Shore Organics also advertises in magazines, like the Edible South Shore Magazine, we use a local print shop. We bank with a local bank and credit union, as do many of our farmers. We also employ locals, neighbors, as do the real time brick, mortar, and field based businesses we support. The many ways money flows through our community, circulates around our community, are vital to the sustainability and health of our community.
How we procure, and prepare food is one of the most rapidly changing markets in America today. It is more important than ever that as consumers, we are mindful of the choices we are making. Losing small businesses creates ripples that touch every corner of our communities. The only way we can save our home towns and our middle class lifestyle, is if we follow our brains and our hearts, not just our wallets.