Amazon And Walmart Slug It Out For Retail Supremacy As Pandemic Boosts Sales For Both Giants

In 2020, the pandemic provided a powerful sales boost for both of retail’s two biggest companies. Walmart’s WMT +0.9% annual revenue last year rose 6.7% to $559.15 billion. It was the fastest top line growth in 12 years, and kept the Bentonville, Ark.-based behemoth in first place among the entire Global 2000 for total sales.

The surge was even stronger for Amazon.com AMZN +1.9%, which saw sales soar 37.6% to $386.06 billion in 2020, the second highest of any Global 2000 company on this year’s list. The jump was Seattle-based Amazon’s biggest year-over-year percentage revenue increase since 2011.

Walmart for now has the highest sales of any company in the Global 2000, but Amazon, currently ranked second, should overtake Walmart in revenue by the end of next year, according to analysts’ forecasts. Amazon’s overall Global 2000 ranking is already ahead of Walmart’s (No. 10 vs. No 18), and one three of the four criteria considered for company size: profits (No. 16 vs. No. 34); assets (No. 129 vs. No. 160); and market value (No. 4 vs. No. 17).

Thanks to buoyancy in its stock price, Amazon in 2020 became a trillion-dollar company by market capitalization. Amazon shares gained 41% for the year ending April 16, more than five times Walmart’s 8% return, and its $1.71 trillion market value is more than quadruple Walmart’s $396 billion.

The two titans of retail often battle to win business from the other, like in the lucrative grocery business, where Walmart enjoys a nearly 20% market share compared to 2% for Amazon, which owns the Whole Foods WFM 0.0% grocery chain. Walmart’s lead is under assault from Amazon and from local grocery stores using services like Instacart to leaning more heavily into online sales.

One initiative literally bearing fruit for Amazon is its growing number of Amazon Fresh AMZN +1.9% locations set up to peddle perishable products to grocery shoppers in a brick-and-mortar store. Walmart for its part is not standing still and expanding its presence in the online channel where sales surged 79% last year.

The third biggest retailer in the Global 2000 is China’s e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which outranks both Amazon and Walmart in terms of profit, and whose market value of $658 billion exceeds that of Walmart. Overall, it’s the 23rd biggest company in the Global 2000. Although Alibaba is the heavyweight of online commerce in China, competition is fierce with rivals like JD.com, the world’s sixth biggest retailer with an overall rank in 2021 of No. 101, up sharply from No. 238 last year.

Business was brisk in 2020 for home improvement retailers, as both Home Depot HD -0.6% and Lowe’s moved up in overall ranking. The pandemic also helped to propel some new names from the retail world into the Global 2000, including Williams-Sonoma WSM +2.5% (No. 1319), Dick’s Sporting Goods DKS +3.4% (No. 1848), and Big Lots BIG +3.5% (No. 1848).

I am the deputy editor of investing content for Forbes Media. I’m responsible for money and investing coverage on Forbes.com and in Forbes magazine. As editor of the Forbes Dividend Investor newsletter service, I send out two dividend stock recommendations per week and send out weekly updates with the best 25 current buys. I’m also a Senior Editor for Forbes Newsletter Group, including its virtual events business, Forbes iConferences. Prior to joining the company, I spent five years with CNN Financial News working with Lou Dobbs, where I produced long-form pieces and reported on management, entrepreneurship and financial markets. I’ve also worked for Bloomberg TV and Inc. Magazine.

Source: Amazon And Walmart Slug It Out For Retail Supremacy As Pandemic Boosts Sales For Both Giants

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Amazon Facing Calls From Civil Rights Groups To Permanently Ban Police Use Of Facial Recognition As Deadline Approaches

Amazon

Civil rights groups are calling on Amazon to permanently ban use of its facial recognition software, as an approaching deadline looms on the future of the technology.

In an open letter addressed to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and incoming CEO Andy Jassy, 44 civil rights groups pointed to ongoing instances of police violence against the Black community as evidence that Amazon should stop selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement. “As a company, Amazon has a choice to make: Will you continue to profit from selling surveillance technology to law enforcement? Or will you stand for Black lives and divest from giving law enforcement these harmful tools?” said the letter, which was published Monday.

After national protests that followed the death of George Floyd last year, Amazon followed Microsoft and IBM in stopping the sale of its facial recognition technology to law enforcement. However, unlike IBM, which abandoned its program, and Microsoft, which indefinitely suspended police use of its facial recognition until a federal law is introduced, Amazon opted to impose a one-year ban to  “give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules” to govern the use of the technology.

While some cities have imposed bans on facial recognition technology being used by police departments, the technology isn’t regulated by federal authorities. Amazon has yet to say whether it will continue its moratorium after it expires next month, or lift the ban and sell the technology to law enforcement.

“They did share that they are committed to standing with the Black community and standing for racial justice,” says Jennifer Lee, technology and liberty project manager at the ACLU in Washington State, where Amazon is headquartered. “If they’re going to do that they need to permanently divest from selling facial recognition technology and cease involvement with police and law enforcement.”

Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment. However, the Seattle-based giant is pushing against shareholder calls for more transparency around the use of its facial recognition software, called Rekognition.

Ahead of the company’s annual general meeting on May 26, one shareholder proposal is calling for an independent third-party audit on the risks linked with government use of Rekognition, citing calls of more than 70 civil rights organizations to stop selling the technology, who said it contributed to “government surveillance infrastructure.” Another shareholder proposal is calling for an independent report on how Amazon conducts due diligence on its customers, including law enforcement agencies that use Rekognition.

In a proxy memo filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Amazon said that it has “conscientiously acted to review and address the concerns expressed in the proposal and transparently provided information regarding our actions to the public” and that it is actively engaged in policy debates around facial recognition regulation.

Amazon introduced Rekognition, a cloud-based technology that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify people and objects in photos and video, in 2016. But the technology became a lightning rod for civil rights groups and anti-surveillance advocates after researchers at MIT found it identified gender of certain ethnicities less accurately than similar products made by Microsoft and IBM.

(Amazon said the MIT findings were “misleading and drawing on false conclusions” and asserted that its own tests had found no such inaccuracies.) After it was revealed the company pitched the software to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, hundreds of Amazon employees sent an internal letter to CEO Jeff Bezos stating that they “refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights.”

The heightened awareness around racial equality and concerns about police surveillance are making such shareholder proposals harder to ignore for institutional investors. Glass Lewis, a proxy advisory firm, issued a report last week recommending investors vote in favor of both shareholder proposals about Rekognition, given the previous controversies linked to the software, and the fact that no federal regulations appear set to pass before the moratorium passes.

“We have to draft these proposals in a way to get them on the ballot, so we go with a softer approach,” says Brianna Harrington, shareholder Advocacy Coordinator at Harrington Investments, which is bringing the proposal calling for an audit of risks linked to government use of Rekognition. “In a perfect world they’d stop selling the technology.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a staff reporter at Forbes covering tech companies. I previously reported for The Real Deal, where I covered WeWork, real estate tech startups and commercial real estate. As a freelancer, I’ve also written for The New York Times, Associated Press and other outlets. I’m a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, where I was a Toni Stabile Investigative Fellow. Before arriving in the U.S., I was a police reporter in Australia. Follow me on Twitter at @davidjeans2 and email me at djeans@forbes.com

Source: Amazon Facing Calls From Civil Rights Groups To Permanently Ban Police Use Of Facial Recognition As Deadline Approaches

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In July 2018, the A.C.L.U. ran a study that it said matched the headshots of 28 members of Congress to mugshots of known criminals. A secondary test performed by the M.I.T. Media Lab in January 2019 and reported by The New York Times found that Recognition had a hard time identifying female faces and the faces of dark-skinned individuals. Representatives from Amazon, however, pushed back against those claims, saying both the A.C.L.U. and M.I.T. Media Lab studies didn’t use the Recognition technology properly.

The company also issued a lengthy response statement on how it uses Recognition. Lawmakers and other tech companies, though, are calling for greater oversight over the technology. The response to facial recognition Ahead of Amazon’s shareholders meeting, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to ban the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement groups, while Massachusetts currently has a bill seeking to put a moratorium on the tech in committee.

Microsoft (MSFT) President Brad Smith has said that his company rejected the sale of its own facial recognition technology to a police department out of fear that it would disproportionately impact women and minorities. Smith said that the technology had primarily been trained with white males, and, as a result, wouldn’t have been accurate. The company also denied the sale of its tech to a foreign country. Google (GOOG, GOOGL), meanwhile, has chosen not to sell its technology at all. For more on Yahoo Finance’s and Dan Howley’s coverage of this story please click: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/amazon…

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Amazon Turns Up The Heat On Brick-And-Mortar Retailers With New Online Pharmacy

Amazon has turned up the heat on its brick-and-mortar competition Tuesday with the launch of an online pharmacy, which will deliver prescription medications to its U.S. customers and offer hefty discounts for those paying without insurance.

Key Facts

The company said that Amazon Pharmacy, a dedicated section of its website, will make sure that “filling prescriptions is as convenient as any other purchase on Amazon’s online store.”

The service will be available to U.S. consumers from Tuesday, and will allow them to easily compare prices between insurance and non-insurance options, both of which can be used. 

Members of Amazon Prime, the company’s subscription service, will be able to access sizable discounts if not paying with insurance — up to 80% on generic medicines and up to 40% on branded — both on Amazon’s site and in more than 50,000 participating pharmacies around the country. 

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The pharmacy offering expands upon Amazon’s acquisition of PillPack two years ago, which offers services to those managing multiple daily medications for chronic conditions and will remain open to those that need it. 

Key Background 

While Amazon has managed to crack, and often dominate, most retail markets, the lucrative one for prescription pharmaceuticals has remained elusive. In 2018, it signalled its intent to close that gap, acquiring the small online pharmacy PillPack, a move that didn’t seem to shake competitors at the time, with Walgreens CEO saying the company was “not particularly worried” about the deal. Perhaps competitors shall worry today, with pharmacy stocks tumbling after the announcement and as consumers, as Amazon points out in its announcement, conduct more and more of their business from home in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.   

Further Reading

Amazon Pharmacy Business Adds Online Store, Free Delivery For Prime Members (Forbes)

The inside story of why Amazon bought PillPack in its effort to crack the $500 billion prescription market (CNBC) Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip

Robert Hart

Robert Hart

I am a London-based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news. Previously, I have worked as a reporter for a specialist legal publication covering big data and as a freelance journalist and policy analyst covering science, tech and health. I have a master’s degree in Biological Natural Sciences and a master’s degree in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. Follow me on Twitter @theroberthart or email me at rhart@forbes.com 

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CNBC Television

Amazon is entering the pharmacy business with a new offering called Amazon Pharmacy, allowing customers in the United States to order prescription medications for home delivery, including free delivery for Amazon Prime members. CNBC’s Bertha Coombs reports. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO: https://cnb.cx/2NGeIvi Amazon is entering the pharmacy business with a new offering called Amazon Pharmacy, allowing customers in the United States to order prescription medications for home delivery, including free delivery for Amazon Prime members.

Amazon has been quietly building out its pharmacy offering for several years after ramping up internal discussions in 2017 and acquiring PillPack in 2018. The pharmacy space is notoriously complex and competitive in the U.S., and Amazon Pharmacy is built in part on PillPack’s infrastructure, including its pharmacy software, fulfillment centers and relationships with health plans. Amazon Pharmacy, announced Tuesday, is the company’s biggest push yet into $300 billion market, and threatens the dominance of traditional pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, as well as other large retailers that offer pharmacy services, including Walmart.

Pharmacy stocks tumbled following the launch of Amazon Pharmacy. CVS shares fell 8.6% on Tuesday. Walgreens Boots Alliance dropped 9.6%. Shares of Rite Aid slid 16.2%. GoodRx, which helps consumers find discounts on prescription drugs, fell 22.5%. Amazon shares closed slightly higher. For Amazon, the announcement is well timed. Americans are increasingly relying on getting their medicines via mail to avoid possible exposure to the coronavirus. That shift could be permanent, as more people than ever before are learning about new ways of receiving medication. “We wanted to make it easy for people to get their medication, understand the cost and get it delivered to the home,” said TJ Parker, Amazon’s vice president of pharmacy, who previously co-founded PillPack.

“The hard work is to make it easy … there were a number of complications behind the scenes.” “We think this new benefit will add tremendous value to our members,” added Jamil Ghani, vice president of Amazon Prime. “It’s relevant as folks try to do more from the comfort and safety of their homes.” » Subscribe to CNBC TV: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBCtelevision » Subscribe to CNBC: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBC » Subscribe to CNBC Classic: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBCclassic Turn to CNBC TV for the latest stock market news and analysis. From market futures to live price updates CNBC is the leader in business news worldwide. The News with Shepard Smith is CNBC’s daily news podcast providing deep, non-partisan coverage and perspective on the day’s most important stories. Available to listen by 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT daily beginning September 30: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/29/the-n… Connect with CNBC News Online Get the latest news: http://www.cnbc.com/ Follow CNBC on LinkedIn: https://cnb.cx/LinkedInCNBC Follow CNBC News on Facebook: https://cnb.cx/LikeCNBC Follow CNBC News on Twitter: https://cnb.cx/FollowCNBC Follow CNBC News on Instagram: https://cnb.cx/InstagramCNBChttps://www.cnbc.com/select/best-cred…

Amazon Has Finally Met Its Match

If there was a “stock of the century” award, Amazon (AMZN) would be the favorite. Since 2001, AMZN has rocketed above $3,300, turning every $1,000 into just shy of $600,000.Obviously, anyone who got into Amazon early and held on is living the high life and deserves a round of applause. But now, it’s time to come to terms with a sad truth: Amazon’s glory days are over.

Because it has finally met its match. And it’s all because of one simple reason: It finally has legitimate competition.

Below, I’ll show you the three companies—what I call the “anti-Amazon” alliance—all coming for Amazon’s throat. All are rapidly stealing key parts of Amazon’s business. And all will prove to be much better investments in the coming years… Recommended For You

There’s a New Challenger to Amazon Prime

Longtime RiskHedge readers know Walmart (WMT) is one of my favorite stocks on the planet. Walmart is America’s largest retailer. It sold more than half a trillion dollars-worth of goods through its stores last year!

And its new “secret weapon” Walmart+ could dethrone Amazon’s online dominance. Amazon launched its wildly popular Prime delivery service 15 years ago. Today there are more Prime subscribers than there are full-time workers in America!

Creating an “everyday goods” subscription with free delivery was genius. Why would members ever shop anywhere else when they can click a button and have practically anything show up on their doorstep in two days? In short, Prime transformed Amazon from an $18 billion internet retailer into a $1.5 trillion beast.

Walmart+ is a total game-changer. Walmart will sell over $75 billion-worth of goods through Walmart.com this year. In fact, it’s overtaken eBay to become America’s second-largest online seller.

The thing is, roughly 90% of sales still happen in-store. Walmart+ is going to transform Walmart into a true online behemoth.

The subscription will cost $98 a year, and include perks like unlimited same-day delivery, access to its new two-hour delivery offering, and discounts on fuel at Walmart gas stations. Clicking a button on Walmart.com and having groceries and other items show up on your doorstep the same day is huge.

Leading market research firm NPD Group tracks millions of online and in-store receipts. And its research shows 95% of US consumers shopped at a Walmart store last year. That’s roughly 225 million people.

I expect at least 10% of consumers will jump at the chance to sign up for Walmart+. And once these folks are “locked in,” they won’t want to shop anywhere else. In short, this will add hundreds of billions of dollars to Walmart’s value over the coming years. I believe the stock will double over the next 18 months.

An Army of Small Businesses Are Moving Online

Shopify (SHOP) is what I call the “anti-Amazon.” It helps entrepreneurs create and manage their own online stores.

Think of Shopify like an invisible partner that allows you to build your own brand. Regular RiskHedge readers know it now runs websites for over one million mom-and-pop shops.

There are 30 million small businesses in the US. These small businesses make up 99.9% of all companies in America. They are the beating heart of communities across the country. And according to IRS data, firms with less than $100,000 in annual sales raked in a combined $2.2 trillion last year.

Yet almost none of this happens online. A recent CNBC poll found almost half of small businesses don’t even have a website. And according to Gallup, two-thirds of mom-and-pop stores that sell online generate less than 10% of their sales on the internet.

But coronavirus lockdowns have sparked a once-in-a-lifetime shift. It forced tens of millions of businesses to close their doors for months. And the only way to keep cash coming in is to sell online.

In short, mom-and-pop shops moving online for the first time ever is the next great internet boom. And they’re choosing to sell through Shopify over Amazon. In 2012, it had just 42,000 merchants. Today, more than 1,000,000 businesses around the globe have set up an online store with Shopify.

This is the world’s most disruptive retailer that most investors aren’t paying attention to. It’s a stock to own for the next decade.

Here’s the Disruptor Amazon Can’t Compete With

Etsy (ETSY) is another member of the “anti-Amazon” alliance.

Etsy is an internet marketplace for artisans selling handcrafted, one-of-a-kind items. You’ll find everything from vintage jewelry… to solid wood picture frames… to custom wedding invitations on the website. It’s essentially a department store for craft goods.

In short, Etsy has become the “go-to” for artisans selling online. It currently has 65 million items you can’t find anywhere else. For example, my cousin recently bought my grandmother a family tree on Etsy. It was custom-made with all the grandkids’ names

And unlike buying stuff at big box stores, which is a chore, spending money on Etsy feels “good.” You can click on each item and read the story behind the person who made it. In short, it’s rewarding to know your dollars are going into the pockets of small businesses.

For example, my colleague just bought a $400 laundry rack on Etsy. He could have picked one up on Amazon for 50 bucks. When I asked why he bought one on Etsy he replied, “A woman in rural Maine handmade the rack. It feels good having it in my home.”

The Amazon machine simply can’t compete with this. In fact, becoming the “Amazon for artisans” is Etsy’s big opportunity. Roughly $5 billion worth of craft goods were sold through its marketplace last year. Yet the Association for Creative Industries shows folks in these markets spent $100 billion on handcrafted and unique products last year.

So Etsy has only realized 5% of its potential so far. It has years—even decades—of rapid growth left in the tank. As it helps millions of artisans sell their talents to the world, it’s sure to become an online titan. This is a stock that can double many times over in the coming years.

Amazon Won’t Dominate the Next 20 Years of E-Commerce

Amazon has been one of the most dominant, disruptive stocks over the past two decades. And it will continue to be a major force in online shopping. But its time as America’s undisrupted online king is drawing to a close.Disruptors like Walmart, Shopify, and Etsy are nipping at its heels. And I’m betting these three stocks will outperform Amazon over the coming years.

Stephen McBride

Stephen McBride

I’m a professional investor and the chief analyst at RiskHedge, a disruption research firm. My team and I hunt for under-the-radar “disruptive” companies that are changing the world and making investors rich in the process. Get my latest analysis at RiskHedge.com.

Source: Forbes

Amazon’s New Eco-Friendly Boxes Can Be Turned Into Forts and Cat Condos

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An Amazon delivery might not be that exciting for you, but your cat is probably thrilled to be getting a new cardboard home. Amazon has made that sentiment official with new eco-friendly boxes that can be recycled into cat condos, forts and even a putt-putt golf windmill. It’s all part of the company’s “less packaging, more smiles” program aimed at reducing cardboard consumption.

Amazon noted that over the years, it has reduced packaging weight by 33 percent, eliminating the equivalent of about 1.5 billion boxes and reducing its carbon footprint. “Inventing and innovating in new types of packaging is one of the many actions we are taking as part of the climate pledge — our commitment to become net-zero carbon by 2040 — 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement,” Amazon VP Kim Houchens told USA Today.

Related: Jeff Bezos Is Now Personally Worth More Than Nike, McDonald’s, Costco and Almost 50 Percent of the Dow

Despite the efforts, Amazon still shipped about 5 billion packages in 2018 out of 165 billion shipped in total in the US. Even though 92 percent of cardboard boxes are recycled, that’s still a lot of waste and forest destruction.

Related: Want to Rank Higher in Google and Amazon Search? This $29 Course Can Help.

Only certain orders will be delivered in the more environmentally friendly boxes, starting this week. If you get one, you can create your own Chateau Fluffy by scanning a QR code or heading to Amazon.com/ThisBox for detailed instructions.

By:

2bestmining2

The Pandemic Has Shown That Amazon is Essential But Vulnerable

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N THE SUMMER of 1995 Jeff Bezos was a skinny obsessive working in a basement alongside his wife, packing paperbacks into boxes. Today, 25 years on, he is perhaps the 21st century’s most important tycoon: a muscle-ripped divorcé who finances space missions and newspapers for fun, and who receives adulation from Warren Buffett and abuse from Donald Trump. Amazon, his firm, is no longer just a bookseller but a digital conglomerate worth $1.3trn that consumers love, politicians love to hate, and investors and rivals have learned never to bet against.

Now the pandemic has fuelled a digital surge that shows how important Amazon is to ordinary life in America and Europe, because of its crucial role in e-commerce, logistics and cloud computing (see article). In response to the crisis, Mr Bezos has put aside his side-hustles and returned to day-to-day management. Superficially it could not be a better time, but the world’s fourth-most-valuable firm faces problems: a fraying social contract, financial bloating and re-energised competition.

The digital surge began with online “pantry-loading” as consumers bulk-ordered toilet rolls and pasta. Amazon’s first-quarter sales rose by 26% year on year. When stimulus cheques arrived in mid-April Americans let rip on a broader range of goods. Two rivals, eBay and Costco, say online activity accelerated in May. There has been a scramble to meet demand, with Mr Bezos doing daily inventory checks once again. Amazon has hired 175,000 staff, equipped its people with 34m gloves, and leased 12 new cargo aircraft, bringing its fleet to 82. Undergirding the e-commerce surge is an infrastructure of cloud computing and payments systems. Amazon owns a chunk of that, too, through AWS, its cloud arm, which saw first-quarter sales rise by 33%.

One question is whether the digital surge will subside. Shops are reopening, even if customers have to pay at tills shielded by Perspex. Yet the signs are that some of the boom will last, because it has involved not just the same people doing more of the same. A new cohort has taken to shopping online. In America “silver” customers in their 60s have set up digital-payment accounts. Many physical retailers have suffered fatal damage. Dozens have defaulted or are on the brink, including J Crew and Neiman Marcus. In the past year the shares of warehousing firms, which thrive on e-commerce, have outperformed those of shopping-mall landlords by 48 percentage points.

All this might appear to fit the script Mr Bezos has written over the years in his letters to shareholders, which are now pored over by investors as meticulously as those of Mr Buffett. He argues that Amazon is in a perpetual virtuous circle in which it spends money to win market share and expands into adjacent industries. From books it leapt to e-commerce, then opened its cloud and logistics arms to third-party retailers, making them vast new businesses in their own right. Customers are kept loyal by perks such as Prime, a subscription service, and Alexa, a voice-assistant. By this account, the new digital surge confirms Amazon’s inexorable rise. That is the view on Wall Street, where Amazon’s shares reached an all-time high on June 17th.

Yet from his ranch in west Texas, Mr Bezos has to wrestle with those tricky problems. Start with the fraying social contract. Some common criticisms of Amazon are simply misguided. Unlike, say, Google in search, it is not a monopoly. Last year Amazon had a 40% share of American e-commerce and 6% of all retail sales. There is little evidence that it kills jobs. Studies of the “Amazon effect” suggest that new warehouse and delivery jobs offset the decline in shop assistants, and the firm’s minimum hourly wage of $15 in America is above the median for the retail trade.

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But Amazon’s strategy does imply huge creative disruption in the jobs market even as the economy reels. In addition, viral outbreaks at its warehouses have reignited fears about working conditions: 13 American state attorneys-general have voiced concern. And Amazon’s role as a digital jack-of-all-trades creates conflicts of interest. Does its platform, for example, treat third-party sellers on equal terms with its own products? Congress and the EU are investigating this. And how comfortable should other firms be about giving their sensitive data to AWS given that it is part of a larger conglomerate which competes with them?

Amazon’s second problem is bloating. As Mr Bezos has expanded into industry after industry, his firm has gone from being asset-light to having a balance-sheet heavier than a Soviet tractor factory. Today it has $104bn of plant, including leased assets, not far off the $119bn of its old-economy rival, Walmart. As a result, returns excluding AWS are puny and the pandemic is squeezing margins in e-commerce further. Mr Bezos says the firm can become more than the sum of its parts by harvesting data and selling ads and subscriptions. So far investors have taken this on trust. But the weak e-commerce margins make it harder for Amazon to spin off AWS. This would get regulators off its back and liberate AWS, but would deprive Amazon of the money-machine that funds everything else.

Mr Bezos’s last worry is competition. He has long said that he watches customers, not competitors, but he must have noticed how his rivals have been energised by the pandemic. Digital sales at Walmart, Target and Costco probably doubled or more in April, year on year. Independent digital firms are thriving. If you create a stockmarket clone of Amazon lookalikes, including Shopify, Netflix and UPS, it has outperformed Amazon this year. In much of the world regional competitors rule, not Amazon; among them are MercadoLibre in Latin America, Jio in India and Shopee in South-East Asia. China is dominated by Alibaba, JD.com and brash new contenders like Pinduoduo.

Imitation is the sincerest form of capitalism

The world’s most admired business is thus left having to solve several puzzles. If Amazon raises wages to placate politicians in a populist era, it will lose its low-cost edge. If it spins off AWS to please regulators, the rump will be financially fragile. And if it raises prices to satisfy shareholders its new competitors will win market share. Twenty-five years on, Mr Bezos’s vision of a world that shops, watches and reads online is coming true faster than ever. But the job of running Amazon has become no easier, even if it no longer involves packing boxes.

Source: https://www.economist.com

Tim Lesko of Granite Investment Advisors says it’s hard to imagine a better backdrop for Amazon, with the surge in online sales during the virus outbreak, and as for Apple, expectations weren’t very high for iPhone sales this year, even before the pandemic. Amazon reported its first-quarter earnings after the bell on Thursday, revealing the pandemic’s impact on the business that has been a rare bright spot on the stock market. The stock fell about 5% after hours after missing estimates on earnings while beating revenue expectations.
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Amazon Workers Sue Over Alleged Failure to Follow Covid-19 Guidelines

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Amazon is facing more scrutiny over its handling of COVID-19 at its warehouses. Workers at the internet retailer’s Staten Island warehouse have filed a lawsuit (via CNBC) accusing the company of failing to follow CDC and New York state public health guidelines for the new coronavirus, not to mention New York quarantine laws. In some cases, it allegedly declines to follow rudimentary contact tracing steps to determine who might have been exposed to the virus, to the point where it it’s “purposefully concealing” exposure info from coworkers.

Staff also claimed that Amazon refuses to properly clean workstations, and discourages “basic hygiene” if workers have to spend even a brief moment away from their workspaces. The company allegedly doesn’t “clearly communicate” what workers should do if they believe they’re sick, deters staff from sharing positive COVID-19 tests and has a “byzantine” system that makes it difficult to quickly get quarantine leave benefits required by state law. Amazon’s decision to resume conventional leave policies in May have also made it difficult to hold on to unpaid leave hours, according to the lawsuit, putting pressure on them to work even if they’re sick.

The lawsuit was filed with the support of groups Make the Road New York, Public Justice and Towards Justice.

We’ve asked Amazon for comment. In a statement to CNBC, it maintained that it followed all national and local health guidelines, including the CDC’s contact tracing approach. The firm reviews camera footage, checks where people were present and conducts interviews, according to a spokesperson. It also insisted that it immediately alerts all workers if there’s a positive case, and that it was up to employees to disclose if they tested positive.

Critics have already contended that Amazon’s approach isn’t enough, though, and doesn’t meet CDC guidelines despite claims to the contrary. Warehouse footage only covers 24 hours (not the 48 hours needed for CDC tracing) and likely doesn’t include high-contact areas like washrooms. It would also break CDC guidelines if it discouraged staff from revealing positive test results. As in the past, then, there appears to be a gap between what Amazon says it’s doing to protect workers and what people say is happening.

Update 6/7 7PM ET: Amazon reiterated to Engadget that it followed all guidelines, and that 91 of its facilities have passed state inspections. A spokesperson added that the company was “saddened” by the effects of COVID-19 and pointed to what it had already done, including unlimited time off early on as well as safety investments. It didn’t, however, talk about addressing current complaints. You can read the full statement below.

“We are saddened by the tragic impact COVID-19 has had on communities across the globe, including on some Amazon team members and their family and friends. From early March to May 1, we offered our employees unlimited time away from work, and since May 1 we have offered leave for those most vulnerable or who need to care for children or family members. We also invested $4 billion from April to June on COVID-related initiatives, including over $800 million in the first half of this year on safety measures like temperature checks, masks, gloves, enhanced cleaning and sanitization, extended pay and benefits options, testing, and more. This includes two weeks paid leave for any COVID diagnosis or quarantine, and launching a $25 million fund to support our partners and contractors.”

By:

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com

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Although Amazon now provides masks and temperature checks and enforces social distancing protocols, many of its more than 250,000 warehouse workers say it’s not enough. Some workers are staging protests and accusing Amazon of retaliation after at least six workers who spoke up were fired. CNBC talked to Amazon workers from around the country about what it’s really like to work inside a warehouse during the surge of demand created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Amazon Helps America Reopen With A Huge White House Order Of $13 Million COVID-19 Thermometers

In what may be one of the biggest Amazon orders of all time, Forbes has uncovered a White House order for $12.8 million in infrared thermometers from Jeff Bezos’ business. And the government says it’s for preparations to reopen America after COVID-19 brought the country’s economy to a standstill.

The contract was handed out by one of the U.S. agencies central to the COVID-19 response, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But a reading of the contract description shows the payment was made to Amazon following an order straight from President Trump’s office.

The description reads: “White house order for infrared thermometers in support of the COVID pandemic. A purchase card is being used as a payment mechanism.”

A FEMA spokesperson confirmed that the Amazon purchase was in preparation for Trump’s grand reopening of the country. “The White House Task Force has a broad plan to begin setting conditions for enabling the careful and deliberate opening of America,” a spokesperson said when asked about the nature of the Amazon contract.

“As a means to this end, acquisition of key components to ensure our nation’s economic and critical infrastructure sectors can return to work is to secure equipment that will help ensure opening America is conducted with appropriate means to monitor and conduct surveillance of various workplaces and infrastructure settings.”

The FEMA spokesperson added that the thermometers will be sent to a warehouse “where they will be stored until further distribution is determined.”

The White House hadn’t provided comment at the time of publication. Amazon said it couldn’t comment on the details of customer contract.

The urgency with which the Trump administration has sought to open up America has caused some concern. Whilst the president has encouraged states to open up and given out guidelines on how to do so safely, more than 80% of Americans want to wait until it’s safe, according to a survey in mid-April. To ease those concerns, Trump has plans to send all 50 states COVID-19 tests for at least 2% of their populations. The Amazon purchase of thermometers appears to be part of the same effort.

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I’m associate editor for Forbes, covering security, surveillance and privacy. I’ve been breaking news and writing features on these topics for major publications since 2010. As a freelancer, I worked for The Guardian, Vice Motherboard, Wired and BBC.com, amongst many others. I was named BT Security Journalist of the year in 2012 and 2013 for a range of exclusive articles, and in 2014 was handed Best News Story for a feature on US government harassment of security professionals. I like to hear from hackers who are breaking things for either fun or profit and researchers who’ve uncovered nasty things on the web. Tip me on Signal at 447837496820. I use WhatsApp and Treema too. Or you can email me at TBrewster@forbes.com, or tbthomasbrewster@gmail.com.

Source: Amazon Helps America Reopen With A Huge White House Order Of $13 Million COVID-19 Thermometers

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CNBC’s Eric Chemi looks at issues with the infrared thermometers professionals are using to try and combat the outbreak. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO: https://www.cnbc.com/pro/?__source=yo… » Subscribe to CNBC TV: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBCtelevision » Subscribe to CNBC: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBC » Subscribe to CNBC Classic: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBCclassic Turn to CNBC TV for the latest stock market news and analysis. From market futures to live price updates CNBC is the leader in business news worldwide. Connect with CNBC News Online Get the latest news: http://www.cnbc.com/ Follow CNBC on LinkedIn: https://cnb.cx/LinkedInCNBC Follow CNBC News on Facebook: https://cnb.cx/LikeCNBC Follow CNBC News on Twitter: https://cnb.cx/FollowCNBC Follow CNBC News on Instagram: https://cnb.cx/InstagramCNBC

Jeff Bezos Commits to Spending $10 Billion to Fight Climate Change

(NEW YORK) — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said Monday that he plans to spend $10 billion of his own fortune to help fight climate change.

Bezos, the world’s richest man, said in an Instagram post that he’ll start giving grants this summer to scientists, activists and nonprofits working to protect the earth. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change,” Bezos said in the post.

Amazon, the company Bezos runs, has an enormous carbon footprint. Last year, Amazon officials said the company would work to have 100% of its energy use come from solar panels and other renewable energy by 2030.

The online retailer relies on fossil fuels to power planes, trucks and vans in order to ship billions of items all around the world. Amazon workers in its Seattle headquarters have been vocal in criticizing some of the company’s practices, pushing it to do more to combat climate change.

Bezos said in the post Monday that he will call his new initiative the Bezos Earth Fund. An Amazon spokesman confirmed that Bezos will be using his own money for the fund.

Despite being among the richest people in the world, Bezos only recently became active in donating money to causes as other billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have done. In 2018, Bezos started another fund, committing $2 billion of his own money to open preschools in low-income neighborhoods and give money to nonprofits that help homeless families.

Bezos, who founded Amazon 25 years ago, has a stake in the company that is worth more than $100 billion.

By JOSEPH PISANI / AP February 17, 2020

Source: Jeff Bezos Commits to Spending $10 Billion to Fight Climate Change

The Amazon founder and CEO has been in the news for his recent divorce settlement, his latest real estate purchase, and the carbon emissions impact his company has on the environment.

Bezos’s Phone Hacked By Saudi Crown Prince, Report Says

US-SPACE-AWARD-BEZOS

Topline: Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos was hacked by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2018, the Guardian reported Tuesday, raising questions over who the Saudis were monitoring in connection to slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and how the National Enquirer obtained Bezos’s private texts that exposed an extramarital affair last year.

  • Citing sources familiar with the matter, the Guardian reported that a malicious video file sent from Mohammed bin Salman to Bezos on WhatsApp was responsible for the hack.
  • Large amounts of data were taken from Bezos’s phone within hours of the infected file being sent.
  • The two men were having a seemingly friendly conversation before that, the Guardian reported, though it is unclear what they were talking about or why they were in communication with each other.
  • It is also unclear where the information taken from Bezos’s phone went or how it was used, but it undermines previous claims made by the Saudis that they weren’t surveilling Bezos and others connected to Khashoggi, who was killed inside a Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey last year apparently because he wrote columns critical of the Saudi government. The CIA has since concluded that bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, which he has denied.
  • The Guardian’s reporting also supports claims made by Bezos’s head of security, Gavin de Becker, who wrote in a March 2019 Daily Beast story that the Saudis had access to Bezos’s private data. He also alleged that the Saudis provided the initial tip about Bezos’s affair to the National Enquirer, which then published Bezos’s intimate text messages and photos.
  • A spokesperson for Bezos did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.

Chief critic: The Saudi Embassy in Washington D.C. dismissed the Guardian’s reporting. “Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out,” the embassy tweeted.

Key background: Forbes and independent researchers have found that Saudi Arabia has used a hacking tool created by Israeli firm NSO Group to spy on human rights workers, journalists and activists. It is ultimately unclear if bin Salman used NSO Group’s technology on Bezos, though the Israeli company was sued by Facebook in October for exploiting a WhatsApp vulnerability to inject malicious code into target phones.

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I’m a San Francisco-based reporter covering breaking news at Forbes. Previously, I’ve reported for USA Today, Business Insider, The San Francisco Business Times and San Jose Inside. I studied journalism at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and was an editor at The Daily Orange, the university’s independent student newspaper. Follow me on Twitter @rachsandl or shoot me an email rsandler@forbes.com.

Source: Bezos’s Phone Hacked By Saudi Crown Prince, Report Says

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