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Whole Foods slashes prices on some produce; also selling Amazon's Echo

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Whole Foods slashes prices on some produce; also selling Amazon's Echo

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – On its first day as part of Amazon.com <AMZN.O>, organic grocery chain Whole Foods Market Inc <WFM.O> slashed prices on popular items like avocados and apples on Monday by a third as it bid to shake off its “Whole Paycheck” reputation for high prices. In another sign of changes to come, a display offering Amazon’s Echo and smaller Echo Dot hands-free smart speakers for $99.99 (77.28 pounds)and $44.99, respectively, was nestled amid the colourful produce at the Whole Foods in downtown Los Angeles. Those gadgets sell for the same price on Amazon.com. The companies signalled last week that they would selectively cut Whole Foods prices starting on Monday, with further discounts in the works. Signs posted around the Los Angeles store announced the reductions. The price of Hass avocados was slashed by 33 percent to $1.99 each, down from $2.99. Fuji apples sell for $1.99 a pound, from $2.99 previously. Meat and fish prices were also cut. New York strip steak and boneless rib eye prices dropped to $13.99 per pound from $16.99, a reduction of nearly 18 percent, while the price for “responsibly farmed” Atlantic salmon filets fell to $9.99 per pound from $13.99, down almost 29 percent. The new Whole Foods prices, in some cases, were lower than those at a nearby Ralphs grocery store. Ralphs is owned by Kroger Co <KR.N>, which has a reputation for competing aggressively on price. The downtown Los Angeles Ralphs was selling conventional avocados for $1.99, versus $1.49 at Whole Foods. Conventionally grown bananas were also priced higher at Ralphs: 59 cents a pound, against 49 cents at Whole Foods. Ralphs’ prices on Rib Eye steaks appeared to match the new Whole Foods prices. The companies displayed promotions for Amazon’s Echo speaker in tongue-in-cheek fashion in the produce section of the downtown Los Angeles store, with signs reading “Farm Fresh” and “Pick of the Season.” The Echo plays a critical role in Amazon’s burgeoning ambitions to popularize and dominate the market for voice-controlled computing. Echo speakers are equipped with Amazon’s voice-controlled assistant Alexa, which competes with Apple Inc’s <AAPL.O> Siri. Users can direct Alexa to set timers, play music, read cooking recipes, order deliveries or car rides, and perform a host of other activities, hands-free. Whole Foods has 470 stores around the world, including nearly 450 in the United States. Shares of Amazon were up 0.2 percent at $946.65 in midday trading.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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