The Web Retailer News Digest for August 20th, 2021

Amazon has overtaken Walmart in total retail sales, according to The New York Times.

Shoppers spent $610 billion at Amazon in the last twelve months, according to estimates from financial data company FactSet. They spent $566 billion at Walmart during the same period.

It took a long time to get to this stage. But with Amazon’s growth far outstripping Walmart’s for many years, it was also inevitable. The news is sure to add more fuel to the fire being stoked by regulators building antitrust cases against Amazon.

With that backdrop, Amazon is also reported to be launching a new chain of brick-and-mortar stores, similar in style to department stores. Amazon’s detractors are going to lap this up: first it destroys physical retailers, then it becomes the biggest retailer in the US, then it builds its own stores on the ashes of its vanquished competitors.

Not a good look for a company desperate to show how nice it is.

Amazon breaks through a huge milestone

Amazon’s first new stores, reported in The Wall Street Journal, are expected to be built in California and Ohio. At around 30,000 square feet, the stores will be much larger than many of Amazon’s existing store formats but smaller than conventional department stores.

The stores are expected to offer Amazon’s own private-label products, which includes over 100 brands covering grocery, household, clothing, furniture, electronics and much more. Here’s a sample:

Amazon own brand logos

Amazon Basics is a particularly notable success story, with sales growing by nearly 50% year on year.

Of course, marketplace sellers are very concerned about Amazon’s private label products competing with them directly. What chance do they stand against the company who owns the platform and makes the rules? Accusations that Amazon copies the products of successful sellers have been rife as well, sometimes with hilarious consequences.

But there’s one thing we can be sure of from this latest news: despite a barrage of attention from regulators, Amazon has no major change of direction planned. Yes Amazon, haters gonna hate. But if you keep going on this path, before too long regulators are gonna regulate.

Read more at Business Insider and MarketWatch.

Other news this week

Amazon gives sellers the option to not take holidays

Amazon has added a new “Holiday Settings” widget to the shipping settings page in Seller Central, but sellers expecting an option to specify vacation dates were disappointed.

Instead, Amazon’s widget provides a summary of upcoming public holidays, and gives sellers the “opportunity” to override a holiday and say they will be working anyway. That way, Amazon can tell customers to expect even faster shipping than normal.

So thank you Amazon, for the fantastic opportunity to not take any holidays!

Read more at Amazon Seller Forums.

eBay bans largest trading card seller citing shill bidding

Just one week after eBay launched new tools for its fast-growing trading cards category, it has banned its largest trading card seller, PWCC, from the site.

The ban is due to shill bidding – placing bids on your own auctions – which is not only against eBay’s terms of use but also a criminal offense.

In an email to users who had previously bought from PWCC, eBay said:

Recently, it was determined that individuals associated with a trading card seller, PWCC, have engaged in “shill bidding,” which is prohibited on eBay. As a result, eBay has restricted PWCC’s selling privileges and listings, effective today. eBay’s policies and standards were designed to ensure a trusted marketplace where our community can transact with confidence. If we determine that a buyer or seller is not acting in good faith, eBay takes this seriously and takes action.

Action Network reported that PWCC sold $200 million worth of trading cards on eBay in the last year, and the company is an official eBay partner with the PWCC Vault promoted to buyers on the marketplace.

eBay PWCC vault

PWCC said in a statement:

To PWCC’s knowledge, its employees have never engaged in any behavior that violates eBay’s agreements and policies. PWCC goes to great lengths to ensure that its employees follow eBay’s rules and PWCC employees do not have access to eBay’s bidding records or information.

eBay has not disclosed the total sales volume of its trading card category, but with around $200 million of sales suddenly cut away, its 142% growth in 2020 is not likely to be repeated.

PWCC is also under investigation by the FBI over allegations of card trimming.

Read more at Action Network.

Also in the news

  • Amazon opens a huge new air cargo hub in Kentucky. Read more at About Amazon.
  • Carrier tracking numbers now required for FBA inbound shipments. Read more at Amazon Seller Forums.
  • PayPal scraps late fees for buy now, pay later customers. Read more at PayPal Newsroom.

Webinars in the week ahead

For everyone

Various dates: Amazon advertising’s global webinar program rolls on with 20+ webinars scheduled, covering Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, reporting, optimization and tips (Amazon).

For US sellers

August 26: Strategies for Building an eCommerce Brand (Seller Labs).

August 26: Diversify & Optimize Your Marketplace Expansion (ChannelAdvisor).

Various dates: Amazon Small Business Academy Pathways series (Amazon).

And finally…

eBay installs luxury handbag vending machines

eBay has placed two vending machines, one in New York and the other in Los Angeles, that contain luxury handbags worth thousands of dollars from designers including Hermès, Chanel, Prada and Louis Vuitton.

Woman with handbag next to eBay vending machine
Photo provided by

Of course, the company doesn’t really expect people to buy handbags from a vending machine. These handbags could not actually be bought at all, but only won by playing a fashion trivia game. The machines were on-site for two days then taken away and presumably thrown on the closest garbage heap.

In a desperate reach to explain the logic of the vending machine publicity stunt, Tirath Kamdar, GM of Luxury at eBay, said

In the same way traditional vending machines solve for convenience, eBay is making luxury instantly accessible, bringing designer handbags directly to enthusiasts in New York and Los Angeles — while also demonstrating the incredible inventory available on the marketplace.

eBay says that a handbag is sold on the marketplace every 12 seconds. Since June 2021, eBay has guaranteed the authenticity of handbags from 16 prominent luxury brands that sell for more than $500, by having them checked over by their own team of trained authenticators.

That doesn’t sound a lot like shoving them in a vending machine that’s left out on the street. But never mind, it makes for great photos.

Read more at Time Out.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Comments are subject to our Terms of Use.
Please enter the correct answer below as a way to filter out some bots.