(Bloomberg)—Amazon.com Inc. is ready to commit to Brazil. Kind of, sort of.
After five years of just selling books in the country, Amazon is now launching an electronics and appliances marketplace. The official announcement came Wednesday, but locals have been talking about it for a week after Bloomberg News was first to report that a significant number of Amazon job postings had opened up.
To be fair, the expansion of the world’s biggest e-commerce retailer in Latin America’s largest economy has been a source of speculation for years. But the rollout has been uncharacteristically slow for a company known for “high-velocity decision-making.” Brazil is a notoriously difficult place to do business, thanks to high taxes and tricky infrastructure.
Even as the Seattle-based company, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, takes a step forward in Brazil, it’s keeping a low profile. The company’s offices in a posh building near a key Sao Paulo financial district are indistinct and almost bland. There are no signs in the lobby. The company shrugged off any discussion about its plans in Brazil, though Alex Szapiro, the country manager, said in an interview that Amazon is hiring for 81 positions there.
Retail stocks in Brazil have been in a tailspin since Bloomberg’s Oct. 11 report on Amazon’s hiring plans, with B2W Cia. Digital, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Latin America 500, down 20% and Magazine Luiza SA (No. 6) off 17% through Tuesday.
Investors may take solace in the news Wednesday that Amazon’s expansion is limited for now to electronics, and that it won’t open its own logistics facilities, depending on sellers in its marketplace to handle distribution. Indeed, shares rebounded Wednesday in Sao Paulo, with B2W and Magazine Luiza climbing as much as 5% and 6.4%, respectively.
The biggest splash Amazon (No. 5 in the Latin America 500) may make in Brazil is the introduction of the no-hassle return policy, anathema to most Brazilian retailers. Exchanging items is often easy enough in Brazil—so long as you’re within the standard 30-day limit and all tags and receipts are in place. But don’t even think of asking for your money back, no matter how high-end the store is. And trying to cancel an order is typically an exercise in anger management.
Amazon started selling e-books in 2012 and physical books in 2014. In April, it opened a marketplace for books in the country, allowing other vendors to sell their titles.
“Brazilians are passionate about technology,” Szapiro said. “The same way they’re passionate about reading. But in both cases, it’s a matter of price, of how easy and convenient it is to shop.”