5 Quick Numbers That Tell the Story of Amazon (and Why Some Politicians Want to Break it Up)

Amazon is enormous, and an easy target for politicians who are thinking about getting into the trust-busting business, 21st-century style. 

Earlier this month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, came out explicitly for the idea, with a post on Medium titled, “It’s time to break up Amazon, Google and Facebook.

“Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” Warren wrote. “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else.”

Against this backdrop, Bloomberg’s Matt Day and Jackie Gu have put together an interesting set of graphics focusing on Amazon, and showing just how dominant it is any particular industry. 

It’s the world’s largest online retailer, and the #1 seller of books (its first foray), period. But it’s also a tech company and an entertainment company and an infrastructure company — and while it’s a heavy player in every industry it enters, and leverages success in each one to prop up its efforts in the others, it’s not always number one.

“In just about every market Amazon has entered, it encounters well entrenched competitors, including some retailers who are finding success by blurring the line between online and offline commerce,” the Bloomberg report says.

Still, the numbers. From 2018:

  1. 807 million books sold, plus another 560 million ebooks.
  2. $524 billion in total ecommerce. That puts it at 45 percent of the entire industry. eBay is second at 6.8 percent; Walmart is third at 4.0 percent.
  3. 100 million Prime subscriptions, putting it behind only Netflix, which has 139 million subscribers.
  4. $80.4 billion in cloud computing, good for 32 percent of the industry. The #2 is Microsoft, at 17 percent.
  5. $70 billion in online apparel sales, putting it at 35 percent of the market. The #2 is Macy’s, at 8.7 percent.

They also have total dominance in e-readers (84 percent market share) and with the acquisition of Whole Foods, they’re the fifth largest grocer in America.

None of this is shocking, but it’s striking to see it all in one series of charts like this. And it just goes to show why Amazon will continue to be mentioned first among equals in any conversation about antitrust concerns as we approach the third decade of the 21st century.

Here’s what else I’m reading today:

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Carol Humphreys