Amazon's $13.7 billion deal to buy Whole Foods has sparked growing concerns that the web giant is getting too big and could start to throw its weight around.Rep. David Cicilline (D., R.I.), a member of the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, called for a full congressional oversight hearing on the deal, citing the possible effect the merger could have on other grocery stores and their workers. The proposed transaction, however, does not raise obvious antitrust red flags. “While several leading antitrust scholars have expressed doubt that the transaction will result in higher prices for consumers, it nevertheless occurs amidst waves of consolidation in recent decades that have decreased wages and resulted in gross inequality in the workplace,” Cicilline said in a letter to the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.The letter comes about a month after Rep. Ro Khanna (D., Calif.) expressed concern over the deal, saying it was likely to “hurt” grocers in his district, which covers a chunk of Silicon Valley. An Amazon spokesman declined to comment.University of Michigan antitrust law professor Daniel Crane is one scholar who's been vocal about the propriety of the Amazon Whole Foods deal on Twitter, saying recently that it’s a simple “vertical merger."“From an antitrust perspective, that’s all she wrote,” Crane noted. Although a congressional hearing would ostensibly explore the potential impact of the deal for consumers, Congress has no actual role in approving Amazon’s proposed acquisition. That responsibility in this case will belong to the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission.Beyond the possibility that Amazon’s expansion into food retail could depress wages, Cicilline said he’s been hearing concerns over Amazon’s already extensive advantages “in terms of size, consumer reach and ability to absorb losses,” which could be enough to quell innovation and competition in grocery and food delivery.Cicilline also cited concerns that the Whole Foods deal will further increase Amazon’s dominance online, enabling it to push even more of its own products and services ahead of competitors, regardless of who has the best price, in addition to giving it more power to set prices for even more goods. (Fashion is one area where Amazon is expanding, having launched its own private-label brands, inked deals with big names such as Nike and set up a box delivery program, Prime Wardrobe).“Expanding its retail footprint through this transaction may increase the risks of self-dealing and preferential treatment of its goods on this platform,” Cicilline said.Unbridled self-promotion has been a concern for European antitrust regulators, which last month hit Google with a record 2.4 billion euro fine after finding the search engine rigged search results to favor its own shopping platform. But so far, that's not been much of a concern for U.S. regulators.Nor has Amazon’s offer to buy Whole Foods. While Amazon is undeniably a power player in e-commerce and increasingly retail at large, as well as a company with expansion in mind, it is not a dominant force in grocery and acquiring Whole Foods won’t immediately make it one.Even if it was poised to become a giant grocer with the deal, antitrust regulators generally like to have some evidence of consumer harm, like price-fixing, before impeding acquisitions. So far, there’s nothing concrete to support the notion that Amazon’s version of Whole Foods will depress prices in the grocery industry or put a dent in worker wages, even if it brings cashierless Amazon Go technology into the fold.Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has signaled that Amazon will have little standing in the way of regulatory approval of the deal, saying during a late June appearance on Fox Business Network that nothing Amazon has done “would qualify remotely for antitrust consideration” despite its growing power in retail.“I don't think big or powerful in and of themselves are that big of a problem,” Ross said. “I think the real problem is if they begin to abuse whatever power they have.”But this seems contradictory to comments by President Trump, who has shown some hostility toward Amazon, its founder Jeff Bezos and naturally, The Washington Post, which Bezos owns.“He’s got a huge antitrust problem because he’s controlling so much,” Trump said of Bezos in May 2016 while campaigning. “Amazon is controlling so much of what they’re doing.”The president more recently lashed out at “#AmazonWashingtonPost” in a Twitter post at the end of June, characterizing Amazon as “the guardian” of the newspaper and accusing the company of not paying “Internet taxes.” The White House has yet to clarify the meaning of the tweet, but Trump’s rancor is obvious.Whether or not that will translate into issues for Amazon as it continues to expand and gain power in retail remains to be seen, but as the saying goes, politics can make strange bedfellows.Barry C. Lynn, director of the Open Markets Program at left-leaning think tank New America, has openly called for regulators to block the acquisition, and said after the deal was announced that it will only serve to “worsen the already severe damage that Amazon is doing to America’s competitive, open-market system.”“This corporation already dominates every corner of online commerce, and uses its power to set terms and prices for many of the most important products Americans buy or sell to one another,” Lynn said. “Now Amazon is exploiting that advantage to take over physical retail.”While Amazon said the Whole Foods acquisition was likely to close later this year, if public criticism keeps up, it may have more of a fight on its hands than it bargained for.For now, investors don't seem too worried. Shares of the company inched up 0.1 percent to $1,001.81 Friday, giving it a market capitalization of $478.84 billion.
Taking the final spot on the mens’ portion of New York Fashion Week calendar next month will be none other than @tomford. Though he’s shown his men’s wear in New York in the past, this will mark the first time the designer has shown his men’s collection alone during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. His runway show will debut on February 6 at the Park Avenue Armory. #wwdfashion
London-based couture house @ralphandrusso has certainly been in the spotlight, having its dresses worn by @beyonce, Angelina Jolie, Meghan Markle in her engagement photos and more. For couture, Tamara Ralph focused on ornamentation — think: feathers with chain mail, jet embroidery and clusters of pearls and crystals. See the rest of the collection on WWD.com #wwdfashion #couture (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
Minnie Mouse celebrated her 90th birthday by getting her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For her celebratory luncheon, @coach’s creative director @stuartvevers dressed her in a custom made prairie dress, complete with Vever’s take on the polka dot – black sequined versions – under a cropped motorcycle jacket. The designer also put his own mark on Minnie’s classic red shoes, infusing the color with sparkles and adding some Coach crystals. “We chose colors that were very Minnie and also represented quintessential Coach elements,” said Vevers. #wwdfashion #nationalpolkadotday (📷: George Chinsee)
@nickjonas is unveiling his first-ever apparel collection through a partnership with John Varvatos. The limited-edition capsule, which makes its debut in spring, also marks the first time the designer has collaborated with anyone on a line. “The process in working with Nick is amazing. It’s inspiring to be around someone who is not only connected with the trade that they do, but also with what’s happening in the environment around him, and how that connects to what we do with style,” said Varvatos. (RG: @johnvarvatos) #wwdfashion
@margotrobbie steps out onto the red carpet wearing @miumiu. The actress is nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role” in “I, Tonya” at the #SagAwards. (📷: Stewart Cook) #wwdfashion
For @massimogiorgetti of @msgm, the Nineties are his favorite decade. “They had a huge impact on my personal growth. What I like of the Nineties is that they are not so precise in terms of style as other decades…there was actually a bit of everything,” he said. As seen on MSGM’s Spring 2018 show: tie-dye and a bit of grunge, two styles that are synonymous with the decade #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @kukukuba)