Dec 18, 2019 - Technology

Amazon flexes its formidable shipping arm

Amazon robot arm with package

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After conquering e-commerce and cloud computing, Amazon is claiming its spot at the very top of the massive shipping industry this holiday season.

Why it matters: Logistics might make your eyes glaze over, but it's one of the key businesses of the future — and it could become Amazon's next windfall. The industry is already worth $1.5 trillion, and it'll get even bigger as more and more people order everything online.

By the numbers: Cyber Monday was Amazon's highest volume shopping day ever. And Americans will spend a record $135 billion online in November and December, Spencer Soper writes in Bloomberg's tech newsletter today.

What's happening: Amazon is already the leading shipper of its own packages (delivering about 48% of them). The tech giant is adding vans, jets, workers and warehouses to become an even more formidable shipper.

Amazon's rise is putting legacy shippers at risk. After brushing off the e-commerce giant as a competitor for years, FedEx CEO Fred Smith called it a threat this year.

  • The two companies have cut ties. FedEx chose not to renew its ground and air delivery contracts with Amazon.
  • And just this week, Amazon — which is consumers' most-trusted brand to deliver their holiday gifts in time — is banning its third-party sellers from using FedEx for ground deliveries. It's effectively a no-confidence vote in FedEx, writes Soper.
  • FedEx reported weaker-than-expected earnings this week and revised its 2020 earnings outlook down. The stock is down around 10% today.

The stakes: Amazon is already the subject of antitrust investigations in the U.S. and Europe, and its shipping prowess could strengthen opponents' arguments.

  • "Given its scale & dominance of this market, Amazon is essentially operating as a regulator of shipping companies," notes Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit research and advocacy group that opposes concentrated economic power.
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