Amazon.com Inc. is the No. 1 e-retailer in North America and Europe by sales, and is rapidly expanding its presence globally. This is a digest of Amazon’s latest moves for the week ending Oct. 16.
Prime Now expansion: Amazon continues expanding its Prime Now service, which offers delivery of goods in as little as one hour to members of Amazon Prime for a fee of $7.99. It launched Prime Now to consumers in Houston this week, and last week in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.
With Prime Now, consumers place their order through Amazon’s Prime Now mobile app. Amazon launched Prime Now in December in some New York neighborhoods. It is now available in 15 metropolitan areas in the United States. Internationally, Amazon launched Prime Now to consumers in some London neighborhoods in June and in Birmingham, England in August. Earlier this month, it nearly tripled the number of London postcodes where Prime Now delivery is available. Amazon says consumers in other U.K. markets will get Prime Now before the end of the year.
Holiday hires: Amazon is hiring 19,000 temporary workers to staff up its U.K. fulfillment centers and customer service for the holiday season. It normally has 7,800 employees across its eight U.K. fulfillment centers. Amazon has not said how many temporary workers it will hire in North America for the holiday season. Last year, Amazon hired 80,000 seasonal employees.
Prime Pantry expands: Amazon rolled out Prime Pantry to Prime members in Germany and Austria. Prime Pantry, which Amazon launched in the United States in April 2014, lets consumers order non-perishable grocery goods for home delivery.
Amazon India: Amazon’s accelerated delivery services aren’t limited to more mature e-retail markets. Amazon India last week added a “Morning Delivery” service that guarantees delivery by 11 a.m. for orders placed as late as midnight. It is available in four metro areas: Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The surcharge for the extra speed is 120 rupees, about $1.85. The announcement coincides with the run-up to Diwali, a Hindu holiday that is a big gift-giving occasion.
Separately in India, next week Indian Amazon shoppers will be able to research and book a Chevrolet Trailblazer on Amazon.in. Orders will be fulfilled by a Chevy dealership near the shopper. “This is a first-of-its-kind promotion for premium vehicles in the booming Indian e-commerce space and will enable us to create an entirely new and unique experience for Chevrolet Trailblazer customers,” says Avrind Saxen, president and managing director of General Motors India.
New shops: Amazon shoppers around the globe have a handful of new specialty shops to browse. A “Made in Italy” marketplace shop includes 5,000 products made and sold by Italian artisans and is now available to shoppers on Amazon.it and Amazon.co.uk. U.S. Amazon.com shoppers will see the Made in Italy option soon, Amazon says.
The long-planned Handmade at Amazon shop went live this week. Amazon says at launch it has more than 5,000 sellers and 80,000 handmade products available. The shop features seven product categories: jewelry, home décor, artwork, stationery and party supplies, kitchen and dining, furniture and bedding. Amazon takes a 12% fee on each order. The fee covers payment processing, marketing, discounted shipping and fraud protection, Amazon says. That fee is roughly twice that of Etsy Inc.’s Etsy.com, another marketplace for selling crafty products. Etsy charges a listing fee of 20 cents per product, takes a 3.5% cut of each sale and 3% plus 25 cents per transaction for payment processing.
Global brand: Brand consultancy Interbrand ranked Amazon No. 10 on its annual Best Global Brands list. Last year, Amazon ranked No. 15. Interbrand assesses the value of a company’s brand based on the role the brand plays in its business and its strength, among other evaluation points. Interbrand says Amazon’s brand value grew 29% last year, making it the third fastest grower on the list, after Facebook Inc., up 54% and ranked No. 23, and Apple Inc., up 43% and ranked No. 1.
A bigger marketplace: In its Q3 audit of Amazon’s product selection, R.W. Baird & Co. analyst Colin Sebastian found greater growth in SKUs and use of Fulfillment by Amazon by marketplace sellers. In a research note, Sebastian says the selection on Amazon overall grew 43% year over year, with SKU growth of 25% where Amazon is the seller of record. Third-party SKUs—those products offered by marketplace sellers—grew 71.9%. SKUs eligible for Prime shipping grew 16.2% overall, much of that originating with SKUs sold by marketplace sellers using Fulfillment by Amazon. In his analysis, Sebastian estimates 36 million items on Amazon are now eligible for Prime shipping.
Destinations shutdown: Amazon exited this week the travel booking space with the closure of Amazon Destinations, a hotel booking site it launched earlier this year.
Amazon.com is No. 1 in the 2015 Internet Retailer Top 500.