Consumer World


(Boston) -- A price-check of Boston area Whole Foods stores by Consumer World exactly three months after the notoriously expensive chain was acquired by Amazon with promises to lower prices reveals that relatively few items have actually been reduced in price despite widespread publicity touting the cuts.

In fact, at the stores surveyed, on average only about 250 items out of the approximately 10,000 carried in a typical Whole Foods Market - a mere 2.5 percent - have been reduced since August to new everyday lower prices. In other words, over 97 percent of their items have not been cut in price.

"The media frenzy last summer after the takeover which included headlines like 'Amazon Cuts Prices at Whole Foods by Up to 43% First Day' and 'Amazon Wastes No Time Slashing Whole Foods Prices' may have created a false impression of the extent of the reductions in shoppers' minds," explained Consumer World founder Edgar Dworsky. "The actual number of price cuts is so small that one has to question whether this was more of a publicity stunt than a true commitment to rolling back prices storewide."

Dworsky pointed out that when traditional supermarkets announce campaigns to lower prices, they usually reduce thousands of items at a time, not just dozens. Giant Foods, an East Coast chain, for example, has cut prices on thousands of items each year since 2014, and Kroger lowered 3,000 prices earlier this year.

Giant and Kroger price cuts

On August 28, the day that Amazon bought Whole Foods, it only lowered a bit over four dozen prices according to Consumer World's price-check in Boston at the time. Yet according to the company's press release back then, "Whole Foods Market will offer lower prices on a selection of best-selling staples across its stores, with much more to come."

Three months later, was there much more in the way of price cuts? Not according to the survey. Despite Whole Foods promising new lower prices on additional best-selling grocery items and holiday staples in a November 15 press release, the highest total number of reduced items found in any store checked was only 268. And one-third of those can be attributed to just three items with many flavors: Fage yogurt, Siggi's yogurt, and Tom's of Maine toothpaste.

A spokesperson for Whole Foods declined to explain why so few price cuts have been made, to confirm what that total number actually is, and to provide details of their plans for any future cuts.

The Consumer World price-check was conducted on November 27 at three Boston area Whole Foods locations: Boston-Charlestown (268 price drops found), Cambridge - River Street (260), and Cambridge - Prospect Street (235). Every aisle of each store was scoured to count the orange "Whole Foods + Amazon new lower price" signs. Weekly store specials were not included. See chart below for detailed results.

Consumer World advises price-conscious shoppers not to fall for the hype of lower prices but to check if their own weekly grocery bill has fallen substantially, and how Whole Foods' prices compare to other stores. Only then will shoppers be able to judge whether Amazon has done for groceries what it did for general merchandise prices.

Whole Foods Chart

November 29, 2017, correction added December 3, 2017

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