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David Huang for Quartz

Amazon reinvented retail, and everyone else is just trying to survive

Marc Bain
Member exclusive by Marc Bain for Retail versus Amazon

Last July, a small group representing the giants of the tech industry gathered in the seat of US government, Washington DC. They probably didn’t want to be there.

Congress had summoned their employers—Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon—to answer questions about the command they hold over the markets they operate in. On Amazon’s behalf, associate general counsel Nate Sutton spoke in defense of his employer’s role in US retail. Throughout, he argued that Amazon isn’t so powerful as to be able to control prices and stifle competition. Amazon, he pointed out, makes up less than 1% of retail globally. In the US, it accounts for around 4% of retail. In fact, Walmart is much larger than Amazon, he said.

In terms of sales, Sutton is right. Walmart reported $510 billion in total sales across its US and international segments in the 2019 fiscal year, versus Amazon’s $233 billion in roughly the same period. (Amazon’s numbers include its sales of services too, but more on that later.) Other retailers, such as Target, may lag behind Amazon, but they’re still tough competitors who aren’t giving up without a fight.