Amazon on the high seas

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Mammoth shipping containers full of dehumidifiers in the Pacific Ocean provide insight into how the pandemic and Amazon could change shopping as we know it.

Earlier this year, a company called Meal was in deep trouble with its homeLabs brand of dehumidifiers. You may have read how difficult and expensive it has become to move goods around the world, and Aterian felt the pain.

The company was offering prices of $ 25,000 or more to transport a shipping container of product from factories in China to its buyers in the United States. The same shipment typically costs around $ 3,000, Michal Chaouat-Fix, Aterian’s product manager, told me. Then Amazon got in touch and offered to put the dehumidifiers on freighters it chartered across the Pacific for a significantly lower price.

“It was a huge relief,” said Chaouat-Fix. Amazon brought the goods to the port, and Aterian arranged to truck them from there to its US warehouses. These dehumidifiers were then available for purchase on Amazon, as well as on Walmart, eBay and the hOmeLabs website.

I keep a close eye on Amazon, but didn’t know until Aterian told me that the company rents freighters for some of the merchants that sell in its digital mall. from amazon sea ​​freight service is not new, but it has become more relevant as global shipping has gone haywire this year. Amazon has also added new options to what the company told me is a still relatively small service that is available to a few merchants.

Amazon’s adventures on the high seas are an intriguing wrinkle in the war to get the goods to our doorstep. It is also another example of the growing network of warehouses, parcel centers, trucks, planes and delivery vans that show the company is becoming a force in the entire product lifecycle, from factories to our homes.

Aterian told investors this week that Amazon’s ocean freight service has helped it “secure very competitive shipping rates” for products that are expected to generate half of its expected sales next year. (Aterian’s best-known product, the Squatty Potty, is made in the USA. No cargo required.)

Amazon and merchants like Aterian have a shared goal: Make sure there are enough products on the virtual shelves for us to purchase. Amazon has the money and the clout to arm ocean freight companies so that its merchants can ship their products affordably.

Ocean freight service is one of the many options Amazon offers to millions of merchants, whether it’s a small Texas toy company or a Chinese one. electronic conglomerate Anker – who sell products to its buyers. For an additional fee, they can store their inventory in Amazon warehouses, ship their products through its delivery network, and pay Amazon for more visible online postings.

Traders often find these options convenient, but also a source of frustration at times due to the costs and the feeling that they count so much on a sometimes mercurial business partner. Aterian CEO Yaniv Sarig was pragmatic about the power of Amazon and other gigantic gateways for consumers. “It’s a reality of our world,” he told me.

It will be interesting to see what happens next with Amazon’s sea freight ambitions. It once seemed absurd to imagine that Amazon would be in the same league as FedEx as one of America’s largest parcel shipping companies. It is now.

This rapidly expanding Amazon logistics machine is a superpower for the business. transport from Asian factories is a logical next step. Sarig and other attentive Amazon watchers said they were wondering what the company could do next, such as operating its own U.S. commercial port or its own shipping fleet. (Amazon didn’t want to discuss this speculation with me.)

The coronavirus pandemic and the global product growls it has helped spark will (hopefully!) Be temporary. But it could be a time that will definitely change buying and shipping.


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  • Chinese government ends shopping night: Singles Day, the annual shopping party invented by Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba, is normally a savage consumer extravaganza. My colleague Ray Zhong writes that the government’s crackdown on large Internet companies has forced a quieter Singles Day aimed at “cautiously” consuming.

  • He is VERY EXCITED by computer chips: Farhad Manjoo, columnist for the New York Times Opinion, explains why computer chips designed by Apple have supercharged their laptops and are a major technological breakthrough.

  • Government digital payments that don’t stink: Togo, one of the poorest countries in the world, implemented pandemic-related emergency benefits for its citizens and was able to make the money instantly available to people through their cell phones. Bloomberg News Explain how Togo made the digital payment system work in less than two weeks. (A subscription may be required.)

The Empire State Building is on TikTok, and his account is wonderfully messed up. Building mocks Times Square, freaking out in front of other skyscrapers watch it, and hate lightning.


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