Not to be overshadowed by Amazon’s decision to purchase multinational supermarket giant Whole Foods for 13.7 billion dollars, eBay announced its plan to acquire New York City grocer Morton Williams for just over 13 dollars.
eBay thrived in the early 2000’s thanks to a booming market for secondhand Beanie Babies, but ever since your aunt Susan sold off the last of her collection eBay’s slice of the eCommerce pie has thinned. With the secondhand Bionicle market not paying expected dividends, eBay CEO Devin Wenig decided it was time for eBay, like Whole Foods, to step into the brick and mortar food business.
“Our customers in Arizona just aren’t buying used bedspreads like they used to,” Wenig said. “But what they are doing is eating -- a lot. We have loyal customers, and we decided to give the people what they want.”
Wenig says plans center on incorporating features of eBay’s existing business model into Morton Williams’ fifteen New York City stores. “What customers have told us time and time again is that what they love about eBay is that it gives them the freedom to choose whether to bid or buy it now,” Wenig said. “We realized no grocer in the nation gives customers this choice, which made us think: ‘Why not let people enter bidding wars for that last dry Lo Mein under the heating lamp?’”
Wenig says customers will also be able to choose whether to buy their food fresh or used, which he thinks is a step in the right direction towards sustainability -- a goal central to the Whole Foods brand. “We thought about people like my sister, Katie,” he said. “Katie bought a carton of milk in 2013, but then forgot about it in her garage refrigerator. She just found it curdled in the back after all these years, but now instead of throwing it away she’ll be able to take it to the Upper West Side Morton Williams by her apartment and put it up for auction as yogurt. Everyone’s a winner!”
What remains to be seen is whether eBay will try to compete with Amazon in the food delivery business. Wenig says he realizes such an operation could be incredibly profitable, but says eBay’s IT guy has been on vacation for a while and for the time being no one else knows how to fix the online order forms.