According to Morgan Stanley, prices are back down from where they were this time last year.

By Mike Pomranz
August 28, 2019
Andrei Stanescu/Getty Images

Grocery store prices fluctuate all the time. Unless you're living some sort of Oprah-like lifestyle where you never set foot inside a supermarket (congrats), you probably realize this on a near-weekly basis. For most people, it's not a big deal — unless your bill gets high enough that you mosey down the road to the next chain. But in the case of Whole Foods, the media has seemed obsessed with keeping an eye on the brand's prices. Two years after Amazon bought out Whole Foods, you'd think the intrigue may have subsided, but since high prices were part of Whole Foods' reputation, people continue to be interested in whether Amazon is bringing the supermarket brand back down to earth.

Part of the sustained interest stems from the fact that the answer hasn't been very clear. Out of the gate, Amazon made a big deal about cutting prices, but since then, we've seen a supposed cycle of ups and downs. In 2019 alone, we've covered price increases in February, price cuts in April, a report in May suggesting that Whole Foods is still America's priciest grocer, and a report in July that Whole Foods is cheaper since the buyout but not as by as much as you might hope.

Now, Morgan Stanley has chimed in with their take — and the results actually fit the confusing narrative above: After a 3 percent rise in prices year-over-year in the first three months of 2019, Whole Foods' prices are now down 2.5 percent from last year, analysts found according to CNBC, but Whole Foods is still more expensive than competitors, even if it's less so than before. Specifically, Morgan Stanley also reportedly found that Whole Foods is now about 12 to 13 percent more expensive than other regional grocery chains; that number used to be closer to 20 percent.

Meanwhile, the larger argument could be made that "who cares?" Beyond holding Amazon to its promise to make Whole Foods less expensive (which, since Amazon has owned Whole Foods during both years being looked at, doesn't even completely apply here), the fact is that Whole Foods isn't a bargain store: It has always leaned toward premium products at a premium price. If anything, we continue to learn that, in many ways, Whole Foods is still Whole Foods. And if you've always liked shopping at Whole Foods, that fact probably makes you happier than anything Amazon could do to the place.

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