retail news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of Amazon, MNB reader Steven Ritchey wrote:

I wonder if Amazon isn’t feeling like it’s too powerful.  This is just an observation from an ignorant bystander.  But, Amazon needs to remember, with the exception of the content it generates itself, there’s not a thing they sell I can’t get elsewhere and frequently do.  Sure, I shop there sometimes for the convenience, but I’m not someone who has to have it there, now, so I’m perfectly willing to go elsewhere.  I can remember a few times when Amazon didn’t have the book I wanted, but Barnes & Noble did, so I bought from them.

I’m someone who’s not tied to Amazon and doesn’t use its subscription  program for staples, I’m an Amazon Prime member, but I don’t use it weekly or even more often as some do.  I use it when it makes sense for me to.  I could completely cut my ties with Amazon, and it wouldn’t bother me that much, though it would cause some moderate inconvenience.  If I perceive Amazon as using its power to bully its suppliers, I may do just that, and I wonder how many people there are who feel as I do, and if there’s enough to make a dent in Amazon’s bottom line.  Whenever you start playing on people’s loyalty, you’re playing a dangerous game, I wonder if they realize that.

From another reader:

I too am a big Amazon fan - Kindle owner, reader, etc.  But I don’t know why Amazon would have put themselves into this battle of the big guys.  A better approach would be to price Hachette’s books at a higher price than others, and explain why - they charge more.  Consumers could then decide if the books are worth it or not.  Because, in the end, isn’t it really about consumer choice?  Or has Amazon forgotten?

Just don't forget - Amazon is a "big guy," too.

MNB reader Steve Sullivan wrote:

Do you ever get the feeling that Jeff Bezos is strapped to a gurney somewhere, unconscious, while evil minions are running the company?

Your two today articles are pointing out things that seem so un-Bezos-like.  In other words, DUMB.  I am an Amazon user, although not to the extent that SOME people are (KC!).  However, if I want to buy something, I don’t care if Amazon has a lower price IF I CAN’T GET IT FROM THEM.  I will go to a local store. OR ANOTHER ETAILER.  The arguments, which come across as petty spats in the customer-read media, go back and forth and the one’s getting hurt either way are the consumers.  I won’t even get into that bit about Prime customers getting credit if they agree to slower delivery.

Who needs soap operas no TV.  We have Amazon.

And from another:

I don't follow the Amazon organization anywhere near like you do. However after 20 years I don't get how they are not on a path to having a reliable steady stream of profits. They appear to be caught up in a draining, never-ending cycle of investing to stay ahead of the "tech" curve.

At some point there needs to be an end game in sights when you are counting on a reliable stream of financial returns. No business can be in the adolescent phase forever.

Amazon had destroyed several other business models as they move forward. This is more than okay if what is lost is replaced with a viable financial business model. When the dust settles ( if that ever happens) will we just be left with retailing in many forms that is unprofitable for no one.  Over the long-haul, consumers will not be served properly if the retailers they turn to for goods and services are not profitable.

And, from MNB reader Mona Dolyle:

You're right about Amazon's appeal being more about convenience than price.  The power is in the combination of one-click ordering, prime shipping, having whatever users need whenever they think of ordering it, low prices, and easy-open packages when they get it.

As I read these emails and think about this issue, it occurs to me that Amazon may be making one specific, key and highly uncharacteristic error - it is opening the door for highly loyal customers to try an alternative source for the products we want. In today's highly competitive environment, that's the last thing you want to do … once you have a customer, you want to keep and nurture that customer as long as you possibly can, not give him or her an excuse to try someone else.

Jeff Bezos strapped to a gurney somewhere? Probably not … though it would explain a lot.

But the more likely explanation is that maybe the folks at Amazon are suffering from a little bit of hubris
KC's View: