By Chloe Rigby

Amazon today announced it was to buy Whole Foods Market for $13.7bn (£10.7bn), an acquisition that will give it a significant number of UK stores and gives it a base from which to challenge the dominance of supermarkets in this country.

The US-based organic foods specialist has nine UK stores, including seven in London and one each in Cheltenham and Glasgow.

Amazon says Whole Foods Market will continue to do what it does best under its ownership. “Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods and they make it fun to eat healthy,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and chief executive. “Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

John Mackey, Whole Foods’ chief executive and co-founder, said the tie-up would also improve the Whole Foods customer experience. “This partnership presents an opportunity to maximise value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers,” he said.

The deal, which is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, is expected to complete in the second half of 2017.

Commentators see a move by Amazon as a way of strengthening its position in the UK grocery sector. Rupal Karia, head of commercial, UK and Ireland, at Fujitsu, points to its recent Forgotten Shop Floor study in which it found that 75% of UK shoppers said they would go to Amazon if it had stores.

“This move by Amazon to buy Whole Foods is just the latest in its ongoing diversification and…