Amazon: Buying Almost Anything with a Mouse Click

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Want to buy something online? If it’s legal and not regulated, you can probably get it at Amazon.com, either directly from the company, through their partner merchants, or through one of Amazon’s subsidiary websites. In fact, in addition to after-market car accessories, you can now buy a car through Amazon — just one make and model, mind you, and you do get redirected to a dealer.

To increase the likelihood that you’ll buy something online from them, Amazon has expanded their offering from their origins as an online bookseller to a long list of consumer products, digital content, and Web services. For physical goods, they’ve been on a building spree for fulfillment centers, slicing margins where they can, and buying up competitors or companies whose products make Amazon more efficient.

Here are some facts and figures.

Amazon Financials and Acquisitions

  • $75B expected revenue for 2013
  • $140B expected market valuation
  • $250 — approximate share price of Amazon in early Dec 2012.
  • $380 — approximate share price in early Dec 2013 — an increase of about 52%.
  • Time-of market cap: $174.9B
  • Over 20,000 retail outlets that sell Amazon Kindle tablets. (WalMart and Target have stopped selling Kindle devices.)
  • $100M was the amount Amazon lost over 3 months in diapers and other baby products, in a strategy to buy diapers.com from Internet retailer Quidsi (whom they’ve since acquired entirely).
  • 4.5 months — the length of time the Quidsi deal was reviewed by the FTC, due to the elimination of a major player.

With the exception of the years 2001-03, Amazon made acquisitions and investments every year from ’98 through ’13.

Shipping and Fulfillment Centers

At the core of Amazon’s operations are their shipping services and their fulfillment warehouses.

  • $13.9B is approximately how much Amazon has spent building or improving their distribution warehouses since 2010 (as of Aug 2013)
  • 50 new warehouses worldwide were built from 2010 to 2012, for a total of 89.
  • 18 were announced for 2012 alone (worldwide).
  • 2 of the U.S. locations for 2012 were in California: a 95,000 square foot center east of Los Angeles, and a 1M sq ft center east of San Francisco.
  • 5 more U.S. warehouses were announced in 2013.
  • Over 50 locations (state, district or city) for fulfillment centers in 8 countries:
  • USA – 14 (Many states have multiple centers)
  • Canada – 2
  • France – 3
  • Germany – 7
  • Italy – 1
  • U.K. – 8
  • China – 8
  • Japan – 9
  • Which brings the total number of warehouses to around 94 (including the 5 announced in 2013). Some estimates given in Apr 2013 put the expected total by Xmas 2013 at 102 warehouses with 54 in the U.S. alone.
  • 10 months is the amount of time it took to build — and get operational — the Chattanooga, Tennessee, warehouse, which opened in 2011. This warehouse has over 1M square feet of space.
  • 24 months is the amount of time older Amazon warehouses typically took to build and get running.
  • $39B is the amount of loss for 2012, partially due to fulfillment costs, including building warehouses.
  • 40% is the increase from 2010 to 2012 for fulfillment expenses.
  • It’s estimated that with an additional 12 warehouses in the U.S., Amazon could serve 50% of Americans with same-delivery. Their current reach is about 15% of Americans.
  • 0.95% was Amazon’s “trailing 12-month operating margin” (as of Aug 2013), putting it near the bottom of the Fortune 500, despite their sales.
  • 5,000 new full-time jobs in 17 U.S. warehouses were announced in Jul 2013.
  • Amazon Prime, the expedited-shipping subscription service, started in 2005 and costs $79/year for unlimited 2-day delivery on orders over $35. One-day and same-day delivery costs another $3.99 and up per order.
  • $8.99 is the amount of same-delivery cost for non-Prime customers.
  • Amazon purchased Kiva Systems in 2012 for their packing robots (already used by their Zappos and Diapers.com subsidiaries).
  • Amazon announced Sunday deliveries for Prime subscribers, starting with Los Angeles, New York and London. U.S. locations will expand and service will be through the USPS (United States Postal Service). Additional cities in 2014 include Dallas, Houston and Phoenix.

What You Can and Can’t Buy Through Amazon

At the time of writing, Amazon.com’s search field’s drop-down category menu had 37 different departments listed. Here are a few of the markets Amazon has its fingers in, mostly through subsidiaries:

  • Books, audiobooks — amazon.com, abebooks.com (rare books, text books), audible.com, bookdepository.com, bookworm.com.
  • Devices — Kindle tablets.
  • Baby products — diapers.com.
  • Kids clothing and footwear — look.com.
  • Kids sports, outdoor and dance gear — afterschool.com.
  • Math activities — tenmarks.com.
  • Pet products — Wag.com.
  • Digital photography — dpreview.com.
  • Movies and tv — imdb.com, Amazon Studios, in-progress streaming device for video content over the Internet to TV sets.
  • Private fashion designer products — myhabit.com.
  • Fashion and accessories — shopbop.com, eastdane.com.
  • Sewing and related — fabric.com.
  • Health, beauty, home essentials — soap.com.
  • Discounted goods — woot.com.
  • Toys and games — yoyo.com.
  • Groceries — AmazonFresh (produce, dry goods, meat, seafood, etc.).
  • Local deals — Amazon Local.
  • Shoes (and clothing) — zappos.com.
  • Kitchen, storage, home — casa.com.
  • Natural and organic products (food, household, clothing, etc.) — vine.com (not to be confused with vine.co, the micro-video sharing service).
  • Industrial, business, scientific supply — amazonsupply.com.
  • Web services – Cloud computing and storage (AWS), website analytics (Alexa.com), Q&A sites – Askville.
  • Alcohol — Just wine, through partners.

What you cannot buy from Amazon includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Cars
  • Prescription drugs and prescription eyeglasses
  • Tobacco
  • Firearms and other weapons
  • Live animals
  • Real estate
  • Lottery tickets
  • Second-hand clothing

The larger list of prohibited items can be found at Amazon.

Regarding cars:

  • Amazon announced a car buying service in 2000, through greenlight.com — a site which currently shows a blank web page.
  • Some websites wrote in late Sep 2013 that you could buy a Nissan Versa Note through an Amazon product page for the car, from where you would get redirected a to a local dealer web page based on your zip code. The Amazon product page has since gone missing. The original deal was that the first 100 buyers would get a $1,000 Amazon gift card.

AmazonFresh Grocery Delivery

Amazon’s low-price/ thin-margins approach is not being applied to AmazonFresh. Several online and bricks-and-mortar competitors charged less for the same sample basket of 30 grocery items. Here are some quick figures:

  • 55% is the share price increase in 2013 (as of Dec 11, 2013) for grocery competitor Kroger.
  • Safeway has enjoyed an 85% increase in share price in the same period.
  • $299 is the yearly subscription price AmazonFresh charges in return for free grocery delivery of orders over $35. This subscription includes Amazon Prime service benefits.

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References

Information for this article was collected from the following pages and web sites:

  1. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-20/amazon-ramps-up-13-9-billion-warehouse-building-spree.html
  2. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-09-20/is-amazon-preparing-to-get-fresh-in-california
  3. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-07-25/jeff-bezos-doesnt-care-what-you-think-about-amazons-quarterly-earnings
  4. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-08-29/why-amazon-is-on-a-warehouse-building-spree
  5. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-09-25/amazons-jeff-bezos-talks-new-kindles-and-what-hes-doing-next
  6. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-10-10/jeff-bezos-and-the-age-of-amazon-excerpt-from-the-everything-store-by-brad-stone
  7. http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1874602&highlight=
  8. http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/12/11/amazon-amazonfresh-low-price/3963883/
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