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Whole Foods Is Left Behind in Amazon's Pandemic-Fueled Boom

Even as the rest of the grocery industry prospers, foot traffic at the upscale chain fell an estimated 25% in September over the previous year. 

A person walks past a Whole Foods Market in New York on Sept. 29.

A person walks past a Whole Foods Market in New York on Sept. 29.

Photographer: Noam Galai/Getty Images

With millions of Americans still sheltering in place and cooking their own meals, the grocery industry has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise battered U.S. economy. Unless, that is, you are Whole Foods Market, the upscale chain acquired three years ago by Amazon.com Inc. 

Trips to Whole Foods in September were down 25% from a year earlier, according to Placer.ai, which tallies retail foot traffic from some 30 million mobile devices. Some of the decline is due to consumers consolidating shopping trips and buying more groceries online, but the traffic decline at Whole Foods is much steeper than at Walmart Inc., Kroger Co. and Trader Joe’s. Visits to Albertsons Cos., meanwhile, actually increased last month, compared with a year ago. And though Earnest Research estimates that Whole Foods sales (including online) rose by as much as 10% during the pandemic, some rivals are posting twice the gains.