A warning sign: The decline in ecommerce revenues for the fourth time in the past five quarters is a clear warning sign for Amazon—particularly after the retailer attempted to goose sales via the launch of its Prime Early Access Sale.
- That said, there were some good signs. The company’s third-party seller services revenues grew 20% YoY to $36.34 billion in Q4, and subscription services—which is mainly subscriptions to its Prime membership—grew 19% to $11.55 billion during the quarter.
Getting its costs in check: Amazon has been on an ongoing push under CEO Andy Jassy to focus squarely on its core businesses—like ecommerce, grocery, advertising, and AWS—and aggressively cut costs wherever possible.
- That resulted in several large-scale cost-cutting measures such as laying off roughly 18,000 staff, slowing the opening of new warehouses, abandoning some facilities, and selling a Bay Area office complex that it had planned to convert to a logistics facility.
- It also made lower-profile changes including beginning to charge US Prime members for Amazon Fresh grocery orders under $150 and sunsetting its charity program, AmazonSmile.
Looking for growth: At the same time, Amazon continues to look for new growth opportunities.
- It recently expanded the availability of its Buy with Prime offering, which enables retailers to use Amazon’s fulfillment and payments services.
- It has also sought to better align its businesses. For example, Amazon-owned Zappos recently began offering label-free, box-free returns at Amazon-owned Whole Foods Markets nationwide.
- Looking abroad, it launched a partnership with Bengaluru-based cargo airline Quikjet to launch its Amazon Air air freight service in India.
The big takeaway: Amazon is in the midst of its most difficult stretch in decades.
- While it is taking steps to correct its course, turning around such a large company takes time. That’s evident in its Q1 guidance in which it expects net sales to rise between 4% and 8% and operating income to be between $0 and $4.0 billion.
- That said, there were some positive signs, including the continued strength of its retail media business, which we estimate accounted for nearly 78% of US retail media ad spending last year.