While we never thought that the prospect of a conventional grocer’s purchase of Wild Oats was reason enough for Whole Foods to purchase the ungainly, troubled #2 chain, we recently heard some news that makes WFM’s buyout of Oats a lot morel logical.
Turns out that more and more folks have been reporting that a serious suitor of Wild Oats was none other than mega retailer Wal-Mart.
While we have consistently written that Wal-Mart’s actual entry in the natural and organic is more talk than substance, CEO Lee Grant has been sprouting more green these days than a hydroponics lettuce farm and the idea of a Wal-Mart purchase isn’t all that unlikely.
If Wal-Mart had bought the struggling Wild Oats who knows what the giant would have done. Wal-Mart’s potential access to an established natural and organic format chain overnight would have changed the retail landscape dramatically. Wal-Mart’s deep pockets could have transformed Wild Oats into formidable competition, something that no conventional purchaser of Oats could have done.
Of course deep pockets doesn’t necessarily translate into well-run stores, but the possibility of Wal-Mart owning Wild Oats must have scared the pants off John Mackey, Walter Robb and the rest of the Whole Foods brain trust.
Meanwhile Whole Foods quick-footed purchase of Wild Oats has left most Wall Street analysts applauding but its stock hasn’t moved much in response. C’est la vie.