As a true testament to Neil and others who have said the media has a tendency to sensationalize the news, tonight I’ve read countless articles on how Amazon delivered a lackluster quarter and how big a miss it was.
Well, in fact it wasn’t lackluster at all. It was absolutely record smashing by all accounts and in all lines of the business. On the e-commerce front, they were so busy with orders they had to overspend on some last mile transportation costs to meet commitments on 1 and 2 day deliveries - a cost that will be addressed in the future by insourcing their own logistical operations including airlines and freight. Goodbye UPS.
Details and context are frequently omitted in these articles - because they don’t get the clicks and without clicks you don’t sell ads.
All that said, I found one refreshing example of an article that bucked this trend. Here it is, told like is, from the Washington Post:
Amazon rings up strong sales and profit growth in the holiday quarter
Amazon reported Thursday that it rang up $35.7 billion in sales in the most recent quarter and turned a profit of $482 million, healthy growth in the crucial holiday season quarter.
With another profitable quarter on the books, Amazon is starting to chip away at its reputation as a company that is plowing money into long-term infrastructure without an earnings payoff to show for it. By comparison, the company lost $214 million in the same quarter last year. For the full year, the company reported a profit of $596 million.
There had been hints before the earnings report that Amazon had a robust holiday season: The company had announced in late December that it made a record number of holiday season shipments to Prime members, and that it signed up 3 million new Prime subscribers in the third week of December alone.
Meanwhile, the holidays generally shaped up to be much healthier online than in brick-and-mortar stores. The National Retail Federation reported that online sales grew 9 percent during November and December, far outpacing the 3 percent sales growth seen in the overall retail industry. And Amazon dominates that online retailing turf; according to an analysis from Slice Intelligence, Amazon captured nearly 40 percent of all online sales between Nov. 1 and Dec. 6.
Still, the results seemed to disappoint investors, who sent the stock down 12 percent in after-hours trading and perhaps had been expecting even stronger results after the e-commerce giant trumpeted back in December that it had a “record-setting” holiday season for its popular Prime subscription program.
Amazon’s chief financial officer, Brian Olsavsky, said on a conference call with investors that it was a “huge” quarter for its Fulfillment By Amazon service, in which items from a third-party seller are warehoused and shipped by Amazon. Olsavsky said that this unexpected boom put heightened demand on its warehouses, and in turn, pushed up costs.
The earnings report delivered fresh evidence that the company’s cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, is an increasingly important pillar of a company that built its name in retailing. Consider this: Amazon’s North America division, which includes its retail arm, saw about $1 billion in operating income on $21.5 billion in sales. Amazon Web Services, or AWS, generated $687 million in operating income on much smaller revenue base: $2.4 billion.
Still, Amazon is hardly taking its foot off the gas in its quest to transform our shopping habits with its e-commerce business. The company this month launched its Dash replenishment program, in which a GE washing machine orders detergent from Amazon when you’re running low, and a Brother printer automatically orders toner and ink when they need refilling. It also continues to push into new markets with its Prime Now same-day delivery offering, which is now available in most major U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco and New York. They are also expanding it to cities in Italy, Japan and Britain.
(Jeffrey P. Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)
A refreshing moment courtesy of Jeffrey P. Bezos. Thanks Jeff.