Investors and competitors spend vast amounts of time speculating or complaining about Amazon’s apetite for investment capital, which is voracious. Until recently, the picture was clouded by Amazon’s multi-faceted investments and growth fronts. Lately there are other signs.
Just yesterday the company announced it was leasing 20 Boeing 767s in a huge upgrade to its logistics operations.
Amazon Prime, a subscription membership, has emerged as a focus of value and growth. Initially this looked like a paid service that backed Amazon’s home-delivery logistics. Then it added video-on-demand and looked a little like Netflix. Now it looks like a strategy.
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Last year it was the Japanese entertainment market that suddenly found both Amazon and Netflix bidding in what had been a market largely closed to foreign players. Then it rolled out Prime, with delivery in Tokyo and later Osaka, Hyogo and Yokohama. (And last week caused a stir when its trial delivery drone in Chiba district accidentally landed on the Prime Minister’s roof).
Last week it was the UK, where Amazon has added fresh groceries to its Prime offering through a “wholesale” delivery deal with the UK’s fourth-ranked retailer, Morrison’s. As usual, Amazon got huge press and is no doubt playing with the minds of Tesco and other incumbents that face the dilemma of giving customers a service that will devalue their investment in shopfronts. It’s one way to bring growth and options for a profitable surrender.
Amazon Prime is already in many other places, from France to Belgium and India (well, Bangalore). It’s selling everything, from books to baby clothes and wine to watercress. And it’s bundling value — more and more — into its subscription offering to boost the stickiness.
So what we have is a retailer, a logistics company, a cloud infrastructure company and an increasingly effective consumer channel with a paid relationship. Not to mention its huge cash flow and evidently uncontested will to invest for what looks like an extremely ambitious global agenda.