Check out the chart above; essentially, the last time that Amazon had quarter-over-quarter sales growth of less than 14 percent was, ahem, 2001. This is a completely new model in the business world in some ways, because while their sales growth — and the consistency of it — is stunning, they don’t actually make that much in the way of profits. In short, American investors tend to love companies with insane growth potential that may actually lose money day-to-day; in the case of Amazon, though, they may be starting (very slowly) to test the patience of this model:
Wall Street has long given Amazon a bye on profits and allowed the company to focus on growth and investments for the future. But some have viewed the recent Prime price increase and deal with HBO—which promises to entice new members and retain old ones—as a signal that Amazon is trying harder than ever to bolster its bottom line. So far, investors seem ambivalent about the latest results.
Just think about the past couple of news cycles and Amazon: they got the deal with HBO (a shot across Netflix’s bow on the content side); they rolled out Amazon Fire (the set-top box); they launched PrimePantry as a grocery-delivery service; and they launched this thing called “Amazon Dash,” which is essentially a wand whereby you can restock your house pretty quickly.
This is in addition to raising the price of Prime (to $99), which apparently hasn’t hurt them a ton; testing their own parcel-delivery service (to cut down on shipping costs, which are outpacing revenue and might continue to do so); and just generally running the world of online shopping while also figuring out ways to make the process even easier. I think Google is probably the most important company of our time — think about your grandparents, who might still Google the word “Amazon” to start shopping — but Amazon is a fairly insane little model too. The sales growth has been ridiculous — and been ridiculous for 13 years, which most companies would kill for. But are stormier days ahead?
(Also, stop and think about this for a second: even five years ago, the idea of Netflix and Amazon being rivals was kind of absurd. Netflix was DVDs in red envelopes. Amazon was where you ordered new sweaters. And now … yes. Business can adjust really quickly.)