Whole Foods Market debuted its first online-only grocery store today for the people of Brooklyn, New York.
In an announcement, Amazon says it has been brainstorming the concept for a year now. It's like any other grocery store except all your transactions will be carried out virtually. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has changed the face of online shopping, and it's no surprise that Jeff Bezos is tapping into this to make another buck (or a million) in any way possible.
The online-only store will be run by Whole Foods Market team members for receiving orders, shopping, and then preparing the orders for delivery.
A golden opportunity for Whole Foods — The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered various industries into commercial winners and losers. For example, given the heightened social isolation millions have experienced, flower businesses have become a proxy for conveying sentiments of support and condolences, and have accrued massive profit in return.
Another sector to enjoy an economic boost is online grocery delivery. Per CNBC, an RBC Capital Markets survey from March reported that more than half of its participants had turned to online grocery delivery. In 2015, the survey noted that online grocery delivery was up by 15 percent while in 2018, it was at 36 percent.
During the pandemic, the RBC survey found that the demand for online grocery delivery had shot up by over 500 percent on a year to year basis. Socially, the image of online grocery delivery has witnessed a radical makeover. It has gone from a service perceived to be mainly used by the middle to upper class to an essential service now. Of course, protests have broken out over poor working conditions and low pay but the executives of these companies have forced the show on.
Given these overnight changes, it's not shocking that Amazon — which already has penetrated nearly all aspects of our lives — is seeking to make a profit in this particular market.
Critical transparency around wages, working conditions, and workers' health remain absent from the conversation. Amazon's COVID-19 track record is already stained with workers' deaths, crackdowns on protests, and public criticism around its official response. The company says it's excited to increase "access" to online grocery. It should also make serious efforts to increase clarity and safety around the matter.