In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States by market capitalization. Amazon is the third most valuable public company in the United States (behind Apple and Microsoft), the largest Internet company by revenue in the world, and after Walmart, the second largest employer in the United States. In 2017, Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market for $13.4 billion, which vastly increased Amazon's presence as a brick-and-mortar retailer. The acquisition was interpreted by some as a direct attempt to challenge Walmart's traditional retail stores.
Amazon, with its unfettered access to troves of valuable consumer and seller data, came upon a rather interesting business model around 2009, when it launched a private label division under the name AmazonBasics. It started first with the items the company noticed people most often purchased without thinking too hard about the brand name, like batteries and HDMI cables. But as The New York Times reported this past summer, this proved to be a way to fast track a fledgling product category into a massive money-making top seller — AmazonBasics’ AA batteries now outsell Duracell and Energizer on Amazon.com after just a few years.
Vince Offer is a famous director, comedian, and commercial pitchman who made his name promoting the ShamWow. Using his natural charisma and his ability to add double entendres to his pitches, Vince turned the commercial into a major career move. The ShamWow itself is one of the most successful cleaning products on the market today, and Vince himself has gone on to pitch several other As Seen on TV products.
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Amazon Studios, which was founded in 2010 to compete with Hulu and Netflix in original programming, has become a powerhouse in Hollywood, taking home both Emmys and Oscars and growing into a staple of the modern entertainment diet of many Americans. Rounding out its position in digital media is the FireTV streaming device, which Amazon first launched in 2014 to compete with Apple, Roku, and other set-top box makers. The product has since been shrunk into a skinny HDMI stick — Amazon still sells the box and now also a small, square-shaped Fire TV Cube — and it remains one of the best-selling consumer electronics devices on Amazon.com.
Some workers, "pickers", who travel the building with a trolley and a handheld scanner "picking" customer orders can walk up to 15 miles during their workday and if they fall behind on their targets, they can be reprimanded. The handheld scanners give real-time information to the employee on how fast or slowly they are working; the scanners also serve to allow Team Leads and Area Managers to track the specific locations of employees and how much "idle time" they gain when not working. In a German television report broadcast in February 2013, journalists Diana Löbl and Peter Onneken conducted a covert investigation at the distribution center of Amazon in the town of Bad Hersfeld in the German state of Hessen. The report highlights the behavior of some of the security guards, themselves being employed by a third party company, who apparently either had a neo-Nazi background or deliberately dressed in neo-Nazi apparel and who were intimidating foreign and temporary female workers at its distribution centers. The third party security company involved was delisted by Amazon as a business contact shortly after that report.
Prime started as a two-day shipping membership for devoted Amazon shoppers, and it didn’t add any additional benefits until 2011. However, since then, Prime has grown into a subscription service with more than 100 million paid users worldwide, while the service itself has evolved to include additional perks over the years, including a Prime credit card now with 5 percent cash back. (Amazon also operates Amazon Pay for purchasing online goods elsewhere with your Amazon account, and the Amazon Cash service for translating cash into store credit using a barcode, although neither are restricted to Prime users.)
Currently, individuals can sell goods in some 20 categories, while professional sellers have been approved to sell items in more than 15 additional categories. Individual-approved categories include books, consumer electronics, tools and home improvement, and toys and games. On the other hand, professionals must meet various requirements to sell beauty products, clothing, fine art and wine.
In September 2017, Amazon announced plans to locate a second headquarters in a metropolitan area with at least a million people. Cities needed to submit their presentations by October 19, 2017 for the project called HQ2. The $5 billion second headquarters, starting with 500,000 square feet and eventually expanding to as much as 8 million square feet, may have as many as 50,000 employees. In 2017, Amazon announced it would build a new downtown Seattle building with space for Mary's Place, a local charity in 2020.
When it comes to TV sales personalities, none are more famous and revered than the late Billy Mays. Mays ran commercials for dozens of different products, but perhaps the most popular of those products was OxiClean, which is an easy to use, non-toxic, and remarkably effective cleaning detergent that can take care of dishes, polish silver, and clean virtually anything else. Billy Mays put his trademark enthusiasm behind the product, and its quality is known worldwide.