Criticism mounts as 'peak' season for Amazon arrives

Benjamin Romano, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

She said the injury rates cited in the Reveal/Atlantic investigation are a result of Amazon's "aggressive stance on recording injuries no matter how big or small," and suggested that other companies underreport. She also rejected any connection between injuries and delivery speeds.

"It's not about anyone working faster than they did previously; it's about processes and our overall operations network coming together to be able to offer fast delivery," Cheeseman said in an email.

Amazon enters its 24th all-important holiday season as the dominant player in online retail, capitalizing on its core business proposition of low prices, vast selection and fast delivery. And, as Bain & Co. analysts wrote in a recent report, "Amazon has historically won by gaining share during the holidays."

Broadly, U.S. retail spending is expected to grow 4% to 4.5% during the holidays, according to Moody's Investor Services. Online retail spending was on track to grow 15% heading into the Thanksgiving weekend, according to Adobe Analytics.

While Amazon forecast lower-than-expected sales and profits in the fourth quarter, in part due to investments in one-day delivery for its Prime subscribers, it still predicted sales growth of between 11% and 20% across the company.

Amazon has become the leading starting place for online shopping, with more people in the U.S. beginning research on its site than on any other, including Google, according to research cited by management consultancy Bain.


Part of Amazon's strategy has been to make headline-grabbing moves during or just before the holiday period. Last year, it announced a $15-an-hour wage floor across the company in October and the location of its second headquarters in November. In 2013, Jeff Bezos revealed his plans for drone delivery during a "60 Minutes" interview that aired Dec. 1.

Likewise, the chorus of Amazon critics have timed their announcements to its busiest periods, as they did during the company's Prime Days summer sale.

"It's no coincidence to us that this group (Athena) would emerge now because large shopping events have become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause – in this case, increased membership dues," Cheeseman said.

Greater coordination is becoming a regular feature of Amazon's detractors: Activist shareholders worked together to target the company with a slate of environmental, social and governance proposals that were voted on at its annual meeting this year. None passed.


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