I’ve always believed that the business Jeff Bezos wanted emulate was Wal-Mart. He started with books simply because they were objects that people will buy without having to handle them. But in recent years I’ve bought an increasing number of non-book items from the UK store. Today, the NYT is claiming that Amazon is closer to realising the Bezos dream than many of us realised.
Fifteen years after Jeffrey P. Bezos founded the company as an online bookstore, Amazon is set to cross a significant threshold. Sometime later this year, if current trends continue, worldwide sales of media products — the books, movies and music that Amazon started with — will be surpassed for the first time by sales of other merchandise on the site. (That transition already occurred this year in its North American business.)
In other words, in an increasingly digital age, Amazon is quickly becoming the world’s general store. Alongside the books and CDs and DVDs are diapers, Legos and power drills, not to mention replacement car clutches and more arcane items like the Jackalope Buck taxidermy mount ($69.97).
“Amazon has gone from ‘that bookstore’ in people’s mind to a general online retailer, and that is a great place to be,” said Scot Wingo, chief executive of ChannelAdvisor, an eBay-backed company that helps stores like Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney sell online. Mr. Wingo envisions e-commerce growing to 15 percent of overall retail in the next decade from around 7 percent. “If Amazon grows their market share throughout that period, and honestly I don’t see anything stopping it, that is pretty scary,” he said…
And that’s ignoring the whole new S3 cloud-computing business that Amazon launched a while back and which now seems to be powering every major Web 2.0 service. In a way, Amazon is a more astonishing company than Google, because it has to deal directly with the public all the time. And it’s very good at what it does.