Last month, Amazon announced that it would acquire Whole Foods for a staggering $13.7 billion. The deal unmistakably makes Amazon larger and more powerful than it already was, but it also begs a question that used to be easily overlooked. What will Amazon do next?
It may seem premature to worry about Amazon’s next step when the deal with Whole Foods has barely gone through, but let’s face it: At this point, Amazon’s next step could be too impactful for any American to ignore. That’s because Amazon controls a increasingly large – and increasingly physical – part of the American economy. What used to be a platform for purchasing books online has gradually morphed into an omni-channel enterprise that seeks to offer everything from online cloud-computing services (used by none other than the Central Intelligence Agency, mind you) to brick-and-mortar organic produce.
According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Stacy Mitchell, Amazon captured nearly $1 of every $2 Americans spent online last year. What’s more, half of all American households subscribe to Amazon’s Prime membership service. Amazon’s reach online stretches far beyond the U.S., but it really hits home on Main Street, where brick-and-mortar retailers struggle to compete with its vast inventory and unrealistic prices.
Online is where Amazon has been, posing a shapeless, amorphous threat to Main Street businesses. That doesn’t change with the purchase of Whole Foods, but Main Street must now also cope with where Amazon is going – and it could be right around the corner. Earlier this year, Amazon appeared poised to enter the pharmacy business. Last month, it dove headfirst into the grocery business. As a result, two sectors that have lined Main Street for generations now seem likely to soon bear Amazon’s name.
From books to cloud computing, prescription drugs and everyday groceries, Amazon’s trajectory is too far-reaching to ignore. As the company grows increasingly physical, Main Street may start to look drastically different. For that reason, it’s time for lawmakers, consumers and small business owners to ask themselves: What will Amazon do next?