Whole Foods’ plan to hire 6K workers assuages automation anxiety after Amazon acquisition

The Amazon-Whole Foods integrations have begun. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

When Amazon scooped up Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion earlier this year, company representatives insisted they had no immediate plans to cut staff or automate store jobs, in spite of speculation to the contrary. A recent announcement reinforces those proclamations.

Whole Foods last week said it plans to hire 6,000 “full-time and part-time opportunities for both seasonal and permanent positions, including cashiers, culinary experts and prepared foods specialists.” Whole Foods said it will hold hiring events across its network of U.S. stores Nov. 2, with a goal of interviewing people that day and hiring many candidates on the spot.

The Whole Foods hiring blitz is right out of the Amazon playbook. In August, hosted its first-ever “Amazon Jobs Day,” its “biggest hiring event of the year,” at 10 of its fulfillment centers. The company made thousands of job offers that day to people who applied on-site.

Amazon disclosed last week that its global headcount shot up to 541,900 at the end of the third quarter, with a big chunk coming from the 87,000 Whole Foods workers the retail giant absorbed.

Amazon closed its deal to acquire Whole Foods in August. It has started rolling out integrations between the two companies, such as selling Amazon Echo speakers in Whole Foods stores, selling Whole Foods branded items on Amazon and making Amazon Prime the default customer rewards program for Whole Foods.

And there is more to come, Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said on a call with analysts last week. The two companies will study how to further integrate Whole Foods with initiatives like AmazonFresh and Prime Now. 

Olsavsky went on to say that Amazon will look at additional store formats, leveraging its new grocery expertise via Whole Foods with its technical prowess shown by projects like the checkout-free Amazon Go technology.

In its latest quarterly report, Amazon broke out sales from brick-and-mortar retail for the first time. Amazon reported $1.27 billion in physical store sales — a small fraction of the company’s $26.4 billion in quarterly online sales — most of which comes from Whole Foods.