Why Are Shelves at Whole Foods Going Empty?

A whirlwind report from Business Insider last week is shining some light on the fate of Whole Foods Market since Amazon acquired the business in 2017. After bringing some much-needed price changes to the Whole Foods lineup, the first of which were listed here, it seems that the siren call of deals at Whole Foods has encouraged American shoppers to head on over to the store more than usual. Combine higher foot traffic with the unpredictable weather that’s plagued the U.S. since 2018, from wildfires to ice storms, and it seems that Whole Foods is having a difficult time keeping product on their shelves.

As Business Insider reported, Barclays analysts visited Whole Foods stores and found “entirely empty” shelves with deteriorating produce. There were high out-of-stock issues across one Midwest stores’ multiple departments, and it’s not just confined to private-label items, either. The report went on to detail “extraordinary” inventory problems at an East Coast store following a winter storm.

The analysts wrote, per Business Insider, that “the store had no bananas and the supply of eggs and Tropicana products was very low. Entire displays, refrigerated cases, and end caps were completely empty. The prepared foods hot bar was entirely empty.”

So what does it mean that Whole Foods is struggling to keep its shelves full? It could be a response to the Amazon acquisition and, as a result, the cheaper prices inside. Lost sales, however, follows on the heels of high foot traffic when it’s impossible to keep displays full. And that’s not all. The analysts reported that “the size and quality of produce at Whole Foods ‘appears to have deteriorated.'”

While one could argue the low stock issue is due to the wild weather, it’s simply not the case as stores across the country are experiencing similar issues. A Texas Whole Foods store employee told Business Insider that “the produce department ‘looked embarrassing'” and that “out of stock issues were ‘horrible’ over the holidays.”

Customers have also reported difficulty finding shopping carts and even frozen fruit in the aisles. It remains to be seen how Whole Foods and Amazon will respond to these issues.

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