Belfast Telegraph

Amazon marking 20 years as publicly traded retail player

Amazon is celebrating 20 years as a publicly traded company this week, a period marked by a boom in e-commerce at the expense of the high street.

The US company launched its initial public offering on May 15 1997, at 18 US dollars (£13.94) per share, nearly three years after founder Jeff Bezos started the company in July 1994.

Two decades later, the online retail giant's shares have rocketed 5,216% to 957 US dollars (£741).

Early shareholders have profited from the company's global push into retail on all fronts - including books, clothing and now groceries - which has made it the "main single driver behind e-commerce growth for years", particularly in the US, according to senior research analyst Matt Littunen at Enders Analysis.

Enders Analysis estimates that Amazon's share of US online retail growth was over 50% last year .

Mr Littunen said: "Above all it has helped bring online retail into the everyday experience of consumers, bringing ease to purchases, building trust and quietly revolutionising how orders are processed and delivered.

"But its sheer scale and aggressive tactics have also made online retail a daunting market for many would-be competitors - outside of the umbrella of Amazon's growing seller services, that is."

Its continued dominance helped drive a 23% jump in sales to 35.7 billion US dollars (£27.6 billion) in the first quarter of 2017.

For the whole of 2016, Amazon saw turnover rise to 135 billion US dollars (£104.5 billion) from 107 billion US dollars (£82.8 billion) a year earlier, while net income reached 2.37 billion US dollars (£1.78 billion) .

Mr Littunen said that in other advanced economies like the UK, different companies have been leading the charge in sectors like grocery and fashion, which Amazon has been slow to capture.

But the US firm has still managed to impact Britain's high street.

"Through a remorseless focus on fast and accurate home delivery Amazon has taken big chunks of non-food spending away from the high street, beginning with books and DVDs and then moving on to electricals and now clothing," retail analyst and consultant Nick Bubb said.

"But the big unknown is whether it can do the same in grocery and whether it needs physical stores too."

Amazon announced in December that it will open a cashier-free bricks and mortar grocery store in Seattle this year, and already has a presence in the British grocery market through a wholesale deal with Morrisons in 2016.

Mr Littunen said a relentless focus on consumer experience has made Amazon a strong player in online retail.

"Amazon Prime membership is the cornerstone of this approach: what is on the surface a loss-making package of free deliveries and entertainment has created a loyal and growing following of Amazon households.

"At the heart of all this is a culture of using data collected by all parts of the Amazon organisation to identify problems and come up with solutions."

The company is expected to maintain its position as it embraces innovation and invests in transport logistics and consumer data which are set to further transform the retail industry.

"True to form, Amazon is actively investing in all these areas, drawing on its deep insights into households, producers and the needs of both."

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