If grocery chain Albertsons has its way, it'll be adding a fancier supermarket to its roster: Whole Foods. According to the Financial Times, the private equity firm that owns Albertsons is looking to acquire the Austin-based upscale grocer, known for retailing organic and natural products.
The Financial Times reports, citing anonymous sources, that Cerberus Capital Management is in discussions with bankers to place an offer on Whole Foods. Bloomberg previously reported that Boise-based Albertsons — which owns retailers around the country like Acme, Safeway, Shaw's, and Jewel-Osco — was in the market for an organic grocery store, as it was talking to Sprouts Farmers Market.
The bid on Whole Foods is not entirely out of the blue or unsolicited. Earlier this month, it was reported that the second-largest shareholder in the chain, Jana Partners, is looking to see how much bidders are willing to shell out for acquiring Whole Foods. The hedge fund has a 8.8 percent stake in the company.
As for Whole Foods, it's no secret that the company has been struggling. The retailer, which has more than 465 stores, has seen a three percent drop in foot traffic according to Barclays analysts. A small percentage, yes, but three percent equates to roughly 14 million customers and millions of dollars in lost revenue. The company also closed nine stores this year in Chicago, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, and California.
But it's not as if Whole Foods isn't trying. The grocer is experimenting with a new type of market: 365 by Whole Foods. The idea is to attract younger shoppers with smaller stores, more affordable prices and a more curated selection.
Should the reported acquisition go through, the big question that remains to be answered is: What happens to the quality and mission statement that Whole Foods is known for?