FTC Offers Perplexing Explanation On Whole Foods-Wild Oats Merger

Includes: OATS, WFM
by: The Stalwart

The Stalwart submits: The FTC's explanation for its decision to block the Whole Foods (WFMI)/Wild Oats (OATS) merger is really a head scratcher.  I mean, this is pretty rich:

In a statement last night announcing its intent to file suit to block the deal, the FTC said premium natural and organic supermarkets such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats, are different from conventional retail supermarkets. It cited "the breadth and quality of perishables -- produce, meats, fish, bakery items, and prepared foods -- and the wide
array of natural and organic products and services and amenities" not found in traditional supermarkets. The agency also noted that premium natural supermarkets "seek a different customer than do traditional grocery stores."

Uh, yeah, cause Whole Foods and Wild Oats are the only stores to offer a wide range of quality "produce, meats, fish, bakery items, and prepared foods".   It's just them and every other grocery store these days.  Heck, even my local C-Town had fancy wood paneled floors the last time I went in.

As for these stores "seek(ing) a different customer than do traditional grocery stores", one might say that these customers are different in that they're fairly price-insensitive (some might even call them suckers, though I would never, since I ate at Whole Foods this past weekend).  After all, the hard-core organics crowd has actually had the temerity to suggest that cheap organic foods from Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) might not be a good thing.

Oh, and how big of a jerk do you have to be to write the following line (from the above Times article):

But all this is about to change, now that Wal-Mart itself, the nation's largest grocer, has decided to take organic food seriously. (Nascar is not quite there yet.)

What does Nascar have to do with this story, except for the fact that, like Wal-Mart, elite New Yorkers are fond of "othering" it (to use a popular term among the intelligentsia)?