Business Insider reports that in a note published this week by analysts at Bernstein, "the firm suggested Amazon could buy some or all of the divested stores from the planned Kroger and Albertsons merger. The combined companies are expected to divest at least 500 stores."
The story notes that Amazon CEO Andy Jassy has conceded that the company has not yet found a bricks-and-mortar grocery format that it is ready to grow into a significant presence, but that it remains committed to doing so. If the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) allows a merger of Kroger and Albertsons, but makes it contingent on a number of store divestments, "that presents an opportunity for Amazon, Bernstein analysts wrote.
"The authors described several scenarios for the company, such as quickly rebranding stores or focusing on stores in particular regions. A deal could help Amazon build physical scale and reach in the grocery sector more quickly, the authors added … The stores likely to be sold are mostly in areas that would be attractive to Amazon. And there's finite real estate available in those regions, the analysts also noted.
"The selling price of these divested assets is likely to be very attractive, at about three to four times earnings, before interest tax, depreciation and amortization … The authors cautioned that these scenarios were hypothetical and added that if Amazon got involved that might create new antitrust concerns. Although they said that was unlikely."
- KC's View:
"Hypothetical" is the operative word here.
If I had a million dollars for every time that an analyst suggested that Amazon should buy and operate retail stores that were becoming available, I'd have a lot of money. Radio Shack and Sears are just two of the retailers that people suggested Amazon should buy and then convert the property to its own format. It also inevitably will happen with bed Bath & Beyond.
I'm not saying it can't happen in this case. But Amazon's biggest problem is knowing what kind of stores it wants to operate and what its differential advantage will be. To this point, it seems to me, the stores have existed to serve the technologies it uses. But Amazon will only be successful, will only find a singular voice and a compelling narrative, when it realizes that the technology has to serve the vision.
The technology can't be the vision. Not in bricks-and-mortar.