Amazon can’t stay out of the headlines. It announced early this morning that shipping will be free on all orders for everybody through the holiday season.
Over the weekend, media in several cities that were said to be on the short list for Amazon’s second headquarters and its 50,000 jobs were abuzz after the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post both published speculative pieces about the possible front runners.
And then there’s the mini-rebellion being staged by those fusty antiquarian booksellers who are upset that Amazon’s AbeBooks subsidiary has summarily identified several countries — South Korea, the Czech Republic and Russia are among them — with which it will not conduct business.
The is the first time since Amazon introduced free shipping in 2002 that it will not require non-Prime members to order at least $25 worth of merchandise.
“Just over half of all U.S. households have a Prime subscription, analysts estimate,” writes Reuters’ Jeffrey Dastin. “… Amazon is now courting those outside the club, hoping its brand and wider selection will set it apart. Free shipping can apply to hundreds of millions of items on Amazon, versus hundreds of thousands on Target. Target promises to deliver the items faster, however.”
It’s also a defensive reaction.
“Amazon’s latest move comes at a time when rivals including Walmart and Target are doubling down on their own last-mile delivery bells and whistles, including buying or partnering with delivery or fulfillment startups. In upping their own two-day free-shipping game, Walmart and Target are seeking to convince shoppers they can enjoy the same perk without shelling out $119 for Amazon Prime's annual membership, which, to be fair, comes with other perks including Prime Video and Prime Music,” Andria Cheng writes for Forbes.
Meanwhile, citing “people close to the process,” on Saturday the Washington Postbroke th e news that Amazon has held advanced discussions about opening its second headquarters in Crystal City, Va., which is across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. in Arlington County. Specifically, discussion topics included “how quickly it would move employees there, which buildings it would occupy and how an announcement about the move would be made to the public,” Jonathan O’Connell and Robert McCartney write for the Washington Post. “The discussions were more detailed than those the company has had regarding other locations in Northern Virginia and some other cities nationally,” they add.
Jeff Bezos, as you know, owns both the Post and Amazon, but it’s pretty clear he’s not the person “close to the process.”
Mike Grella, Amazon’s director of economic development public policy, quickly took issue with the WaPo story in several tweets, including this one: “Memo to the genius leaking info about Crystal City, VA as #HQ2 selection. You’re not doing Crystal City, VA any favors. And stop treating the NDA you signed like a used napkin, Amazon’s director of economic development public policy.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Stevens, Scott Calvert and Tawnell D. Hobbs were a bit more expansive in a piece yesterday, writing that Amazon “has progressed to late-stage talks on its planned second headquarters with a small handful of communities including northern Virginia’s Crystal City, Dallas and New York City.”
They also had a few qualifications.
“Together, the developments are intensifying anticipation that the list of likely choices is dwindling -- even as several of the knowledgeable people cautioned that Amazon hasn’t made a final decision. Some also believe Amazon may announce plans to place smaller operations in runner-up locations,” they add.
But other contenders are not conceding. “Philly not counting itself out of the running,” reads part of the headline in the Philadelphia’s Inquirer. “North Carolina officials say they still consider the Triangle a competing site for Amazon’s second headquarters despite a Washington Post report …,” is Dan Kane’s lede in the Durham, N.C. Herald-Sun.
As all this was going on, “more than 250 antiquarian book dealers in 24 countries say they are pulling over a million books off an Amazon-owned site for a week, an impromptu protest after the site abruptly moved to ban sellers from several nations,” David Streitfeld reports for the New York Times.
The flash strike -- which starts today and has been dubbed Banned Booksellers Week -- “is a rare concerted action by vendors against any part of Amazon, which depends on third-party sellers for much of its merchandise and revenue. The protest arrives as increasing attention is being paid to the extensive power that Amazon wields as a retailer -- a power that is greatest in books,” Streitfeld continues.
One last citation of Amazon’s ubiquity in our newsfeeds: The Wall Street Journal’s Suzanne Kapner published a piece Saturday about the explosive growth of Five Below, a chain that “sells everything from Spalding basketballs to Bluetooth headphones and yoga mats for $5 or less [and] might be the most successful retailer you’ve never heard of.” It will have 750 outlets by year’s end.
The hed atop the story? “Five Below, the Amazon-Proof Store.”