Few retailers can touch Amazon at present in terms of growth, innovation, opportunities and pure excitement.

Few retailers can touch Amazon at present in terms of growth, innovation, opportunities and pure excitement.

While others struggle to maintain sales, Amazon reported its sales up by almost 40% in 2010. If Amazon continues at a similar rate, it will be the world’s second largest retailer towards the end of the decade.

The question then will be how long before it catches up with Walmart? Amazingly, Amazon only has a presence in just over 10 markets – even though it exports to many more.

That’s why the launch of the Kindle Fire tablet is big news. Sure, a week doesn’t seem to go by without someone launching a new shiny black rectangle of some description.

Even some retailers have jumped on the tablet bandwagon over the past year (remember the Next tablet anyone?). Amazon’s tablet seems different though with the device geared towards users consuming as much Amazon content and products as possible. This puts rivals, particularly those that actually plan to sell the Kindle Fire, such as Best Buy, in a tricky position.

Amazon’s opportunity rests in seamlessly combining the Fire device with its huge catalogue. Think of any book, music track or video and it can be downloaded from Amazon within minutes.

But the same is also partly true of any other product category such as toys, fashion or beauty. As Amazon grows its range into “Earth’s largest selection” the device can guide users straight into the Amazon store.

That could be a real threat to the entire spectrum of retailers. Kindle Fire owners will be ‘locked’ in to Amazon for a number of product categories and will need a good reason to go elsewhere.

Able to join the dots between its raft of services and products, the Kindle Fire could represent a way for Amazon to drive sales in the coming years, maintaining customer loyalty in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Kindle Fire is not going to define (or redefine Amazon).

But it’s amazing to consider that the iPad’s future major competitor could come from a retailer which, until the launch of the first Kindle e-reader device in 2007, had a private label range restricted to audio cables and blank DVDs.