Amazon.com Inc. announced today that its second Prime Day sale will be July 12. And it’s aiming to counter grumblings over last year’s giant mid-summer sales with deals on TVs and toys and the chance for Prime members to meet such celebrities as Carrie Underwood, Blink-182 and the Lumineers.
Amazon says the sales event, open only to members of its Prime loyalty program, will feature more than 100,000 deals worldwide. The event, which begins July 12 at midnight Pacific Time in the United States will also offer deals to Prime members in nine other countries: the United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Belgium and Austria.
The big sale day, which Amazon inaugurated on July 15 last year to celebrate its 20th anniversary, is a major opportunity for merchants that sell on Amazon marketplaces. Those sellers’ sales increased 93% in the United States over the same day a year earlier and 53% in Europe, according to ChannelAdvisor, which helps merchants and brands sell on such online marketplaces as Amazon and eBay.
Amazon’s own results were even better: All sales on Amazon sites were up 266% over the same day a year earlier and 18% higher than on Black Friday 2014, the day after Thanksgiving. All told, Amazon says consumers purchased 34 million items on Prime Day 2015.
This year will be even bigger, Amazon says.
“Following last year’s record sales, we have dramatically increased the inventory behind many deals. In fact, in the U.S. we have nearly double the TV units compared to Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.” said Greg Greeley, vice president for Amazon Prime said today in announcing the Prime Day event. “Even with this massive selection we know many of the Prime Day offers will sell out, so members should download the Amazon shopping app to receive notifications on their favorite deals.”
While last year’s sales were big, many consumers took to social media to complain that the bargains offered on Prime Day 2015 were mainly on unappealing items, likely merchandise Amazon and its marketplace sellers were looking to unload. That showed up again today in some early posts on Twitter that such things as “#PrimeDay is coming back. AKA @amazon garage sale day. Selling the crap we couldn’t sell the rest of the year” and “Get ready for Amazon’s massive garage sale on July 12 to clean out all the junk out of their warehouses.”
Amazon appears to be seeking to deflect such criticism with appealing offers. Amazon, No. 1 in the 2016 Internet Retailer Top 500, promises there were deals on nearly twice as many TVs as on its sites on last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and, in an apparent effort to jump-start holiday sales, on toys. “Members in the U.S. will find toy deals nearly all day on Prime Day,” Amazon says.
To warm up Prime members for the big event, Amazon promises a week of “countdown deals” from July 5 to 11. Amazon lists the deals it will offer on a special section of its website, amazon.com/primeday.
And to further boost interest, Amazon is promising Prime members a chance to meet a dozen musical performers, including Carrie Underwood, Blink-182, Norah Jones, Flo Rida, The Lumineers and Pentatonix. “Each winning experience includes airfare, hotel accommodations, tickets to see the artist in concert, and best of all—a meet-and-greet with the artists themselves,” Amazon says. “Prime members in the U.S. can participate by listening to a song from select Prime Music playlists, each associated with a prize.”
Colin Sebastian, who follows Amazon as an analyst at investment firm Robert W. Baird & Co., says Prime Day seems mainly to be designed “to help drive sales in a seasonally slow period ahead of the back-to-school rush. It also allows Amazon and its third-party marketplace merchants to try and clean out slower-moving inventory before the Q4 holiday rush.” Amazon is likely also seeking publicity from the well-publicized sale, Sebastian says, “but I don’t think Amazon is in need of more attention.”
Meanwhile, other retailers can compete effectively with Amazon, even around Prime Day, says Hayley Silver, vice president of Bizrate Insights, a division of marketing technology provider Connexity.
“Many retailers still possess attributes that are important to consumers and that Amazon Prime doesn’t offer. Things like exclusive products, local access and involvement, and high-touch service levels,” Silver says. “Plus, retailers without a pay-for-membership club have greater accessibility and no hurdles for deal seekers. Retailers should play into this and raise the bar: Offer free returns shipping—which Amazon Prime does not include—and offer free two day ship-to-a-store. 43% of online buyers want free returns shipping in order to buy more online; 55% want in-store pick-up to avoid paying shipping fees.
“Physical stores should also be ready to roll out the red carpet, make a party of the occasion, and further build its relationships with its customers and the community—perhaps through a donation to local schools or shelters of a percent of net sales.”