In May 2018, Amazon threatened the Seattle City Council over an employee head tax proposal that would have funded houselessness services and low-income housing. The tax would have cost Amazon about $800 per employee, or 0.7% of their average salary. In retaliation, Amazon paused construction on a new building, threatened to limit further investment in the city, and funded a repeal campaign. Although originally passed, the measure was soon repealed after an expensive repeal campaign spearheaded by Amazon.
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Amazon hasn’t been content stopping with smart speakers and just standard old appliances under its AmazonBasics brand. In its quest to put Alexa everywhere, the company now sells a dizzying number of smart home devices that go well beyond its core speaker and set-top box beginnings. First there was the Echo Dot, to help bring Alexa to analog speaker systems and get the voice assistant into more rooms of the home. Then there was the Echo Look, for AI-assisted outfit recommendations, and the Echo Show, which contained a display and camera for video chatting and was designed to be a hands-free screen for the kitchen.
The difference is that Amazon has data to prove what’s popular and easy to sell, and free shipping to get people to buy it online instead of in the store. (That’s gotten the attention of the European Commission, which is looking into whether Amazon is harming competition by using data from its sellers to develop its own products.) You can now buy Amazon-produced electric kettles, toasters, office chairs, knife sets, neoprene dumbbells, comforters, suitcases — name a product you’d find in a Walmart, and it’s probably already made and sold under the AmazonBasics name. Earlier this month, the company started selling its own mattress, striking fear in the direct-to-consumer mattress startup market dominated by Casper and Tuft & Needle.
Amazon now has more than 100 private label brands, some without the name Amazon even remotely attached, for product categories like clothing, dog food, and furniture. Yet AmazonBasics, and the Amazon Essentials clothing brand, remain the company’s biggest weapons in its war against offline retail. Just as Walmart, Target, and other stores launched their own private label brands for virtually every product imaginable, the company has done the same. (In 2015, it also launched an official Etsy competitor in the form of Amazon Homemade.)
According to sources, Amazon did not expect to make a profit for four to five years. This comparatively slow growth caused stockholders to complain that the company was not reaching profitability fast enough to justify their investment or even survive in the long-term. The dot-com bubble burst at the start of the 21st century and destroyed many e-companies in the process, but Amazon survived and moved forward beyond the tech crash to become a huge player in online sales. The company finally turned its first profit in the fourth quarter of 2001: $5 million (i.e., 1¢ per share), on revenues of more than $1 billion. This profit margin, though extremely modest, proved to skeptics that Bezos' unconventional business model could succeed.
Yet the more monumental retail push occurred last summer, when Amazon purchased grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion and proved, yet again, that Bezos is willing and able to buy his way into a new market when it’s unfavorable to start from scratch. Amazon now uses Whole Foods’ grocery pick-up and delivery perks and in-store discounts as a way to reward its Prime subscribers. It’s also using its massive resources to lower Whole Foods prices, making it more competitive with Kroger, Target, and Walmart. In response, Walmart has begun investing heavily in e-commerce and grocery delivery to protect its turf from Amazon, setting the stage for an unprecedented retail war.
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.
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Amazon.com, Inc., doing business as Amazon (/ˈæməˌzɒn/), is an American electronic commerce and cloud computing company based in Seattle, Washington, that was founded by Jeff Bezos on July 5, 1994. The tech giant is the largest Internet retailer in the world as measured by revenue and market capitalization, and second largest after Alibaba Group in terms of total sales. The Amazon.com website started as an online bookstore and later diversified to sell video downloads/streaming, MP3 downloads/streaming, audiobook downloads/streaming, software, video games, electronics, apparel, furniture, food, toys, and jewelry. The company also owns a publishing arm, Amazon Publishing, a film and television studio, Amazon Studios, produces consumer electronics lines including Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, Fire TV, and Echo devices, and is the world's largest provider of cloud infrastructure services (IaaS and PaaS) through its AWS subsidiary. Amazon also sells certain low-end products under its in-house brand AmazonBasics.
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