(p. B1) There is a simple explanation for Amazon’s rise, and also a second, more complicated one. The simple story involves Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud-computing business, which rents out vast amounts of server space to other companies. Amazon began disclosing A.W.S.’s financial performance in April, and the numbers showed that selling server space was a much bigger business than anyone had realized. Deutsche Bank estimates that A.W.S., which is less than a decade old, could soon be worth $160 billion as a stand-alone company. That’s more valuable than Intel.
Yet the disclosure of A.W.S.’s size has obscured a deeper change at Amazon. For years, observers have wondered if Amazon’s shopping business — you know, its main business — could ever really work. Investors gave (p. B11) Mr. Bezos enormous leeway to spend billions building out a distribution-center infrastructure, but it remained a semi-open question if the scale and pace of investments would ever pay off. Could this company ever make a whole lot of money selling so much for so little?
As we embark upon another holiday shopping season, the answer is becoming clear: Yes, Amazon can make money selling stuff. In the flood of rapturous reviews from stock analysts over the company’s earnings report last month, several noted that Amazon’s retail operations had reached a “critical scale” or an “inflection point.” They meant that Amazon’s enormous investments in infrastructure and logistics have begun to pay off. The company keeps capturing a larger slice of American and even international purchases. It keeps attracting more users to its Prime fast-shipping subscription program, and, albeit slowly, it is beginning to scratch out higher profits from shoppers.
. . .
Why is Amazon so far ahead? It is difficult to resist marveling at the way Mr. Bezos has built his indomitable shopping machine, and the very real advantages in price and convenience that he has brought to America’s national pastime of buying stuff. What has been key to this rise, and missing from many of his competitors’ efforts, is patience. In a very old-fashioned manner, one that is far out of step with a corporate world in which milestones are measured every three months, Amazon has been willing to build its empire methodically and at great cost over almost two decades, despite skepticism from many sectors of the business world.
For the full commentary, see:
Manjoo, Farhad. “STATE OF THE ART; Long Game at Amazon Produces Juggernaut.” The New York Times (Thurs., NOV. 19, 2015): B1 & B11.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date NOV. 18, 2015, and has the title “STATE OF THE ART; How Amazon’s Long Game Yielded a Retail Juggernaut.”)