Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of food retailer Whole Foods earlier certainly looked like part of a strategy to make a dent in the food delivery market. Now experts suggest the place it could start innovating the store is in behind the scenes, with warehouse robots.
According to Bloomberg, Amazon will introduce robots into Whole Foods’ warehouses as a way to cut down on costs. Gary Hawkins, CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail and Technology, says of the potential cost-cutting measure:
The easiest place for Amazon to bring its expertise to bear is in the warehouses, because that’s where Amazon really excels. If they can reduce costs, they can show that on the store shelves and move Whole Foods away from the Whole Paycheck image.
Hawkins is no doubt referring to the popular perception of Whole Foods as a bit ritzy (this is the chain that once sold $6 asparagus water).
Automating Whole Foods warehouses would also allow Amazon to compete with larger retailers such as Walmart in the food delivery sphere. As it is, Amazon distribution centers aren’t equipped to handle fresh food in the same way food retailers are.
Amazon has been using robots in its warehouses after the acquisition of Kiva in 2012. That acquisition hasn’t killed off its human workforce, which might allay some fears of imminent layoffs for Whole Foods employees.