Covid lockdowns are supercharging Amazon’s international business

Limited generosity.
Limited generosity.
Image: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol
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Amazon might seem an unstoppable force in the US, but the picture has often looked different overseas. For years, the company’s international expansion has lagged behind its growth in North America—that is until this most recent quarter.

Amazon’s international sales surged to $37.5 billion in the last three months of 2020, growing 57% (pdf) compared to the same period the year before. They far outpaced the 40% growth in its North American revenues, which is still the bigger share of Amazon’s business with $75.3 billion in sales for the quarter.

Prime Day’s move to the end of the year contributed to the overseas performance, CFO Brian Olsavsky said on a call with investors and analysts yesterday. It’s still catching on outside the US and its smaller international sales are able to grow faster.

But, Olsavsky admitted, something else was helping to supercharge Amazon’s overseas results.

“I would attribute it really to the government actions and lockdowns that we saw, especially in the UK and Europe,” he said. “I think that increased during the quarter, unfortunately for the economy. But it did drive higher sales on our site.”

In recent months European economies have again issued new restrictions on businesses as countries try to keep new cases of Covid-19 from rising. It has presented a fresh set of challenges for local retailers who have to shut their doors.

E-commerce, however, is always open and accessible from home. Amazon is reaping the rewards.