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HAVE PRIME WILL TRAVEL

Why Amazon has failed to live up to its global ambitions

Jeff Bezos wearing a Nehru jacket at an event in India
Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis
Hello, India. It’s me, Jeff.
  • Marc Bain
By Marc Bain

Fashion reporter

Amazon summed up its hopes for its international sales years ago, in a line buried in its annual reports to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. “We expect that, over time, our International segment will represent 50% or more of our consolidated net sales,” it said in its filing for the 2005 financial year.

The line appeared in every annual filing through its 2013 financial year, after which it disappeared, apparently along with Amazon’s belief that international sales could be half its business or more.

Since 2010, Amazon’s overseas business—currently about 27% of its total sales—has failed to grow as quickly as its domestic one. In 2019 it slowed further, with sales growing about 13% versus 21% the previous year. Of course the US is one of the biggest retail prizes in the world, and Amazon is in an enviable position when its biggest business is its fastest growing. But overall it has struggled to duplicate its US results overseas despite years of work and investment. For now at least, it remains one of the few areas where Amazon has fallen short of its outsized ambitions.

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