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Aug 29, 2017

Whole Foods overall prices still high after selective cuts: Analyst

Customers shop at a Whole Foods store in New York City

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LOS ANGELES -- Whole Foods shoppers may be premature in cheering Amazon.com's (AMZN.O) steep price cuts on staples like bananas, avocados and beef, according to one analysis released on Tuesday that suggested the premium grocery chain has not yet shed its "Whole Paycheck" reputation for lofty prices.

"Amazon appears to be taking a page out of the old Wal-Mart playbook on the price action front — that is, announcing a plethora of price actions that on the surface look deep, but in reality only reveal modest reductions," Gordon Haskett Research Advisors analyst Charles Grom wrote in a client note.

"We will continue to monitor the situation going forward, but our initial checks suggest that Amazon's bark may be greater than its bite," Grom wrote.

Whole Foods stores around the country on Monday cut prices on selected items by as much as 43 per cent. The move, on the day Amazon closed its US$13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, was broadly cheered by shoppers.

But Grom said an analysis of prices on more than 100 products at a Whole Foods in Princeton, New Jersey, showed an average price decline of only 1.2 per cent between Aug. 21 and Aug. 28, dates that fell before and after the merger. Prices on about 78 per cent of items were unchanged from the previous week, Grom said.

The price adjustments varied by category. Dairy and yogurt were down the most with a 5.6 per cent decline, while dry grocery and baking items prices posted the biggest gain of 4.9 percent.

Among individual items, the price on a 16-ounce tub of Talenti Gelato fell to US$3.49 from US$5.79, or almost 40 per cent, while the price on a six-ounce box of Annie's Mac and Cheese more than doubled, going from US$1 to US$2.19.

Whole Foods did not immediately respond to a request for comment.