Analysis: Amazon sales rocket during coronavirus crisis, but at what cost?

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Online titan Amazon posted quarterly figures that showed both the agility of its response to demand during the coronavirus pandemic and the massive cost – in dollars and perhaps reputation – that accompanied that.

Amazon’s sales in the first quarter to March 31 climbed 26% to $75.5bn, beating guidance by $2bn. Amazon extended its technologically enabled bricks-and-mortar experiments with the opening of the first Amazon Go Grocery store in its home city of Seattle, and once again topped the online category of the American Customer Satisfaction Index – it has had a top 10 spot for more than a decade.

But net income fell from $3.6bn to $2.5bn as factors such as higher shipping costs amid the Covid-19 crisis had an impact.

The retail juggernaut would, in what founder Jeff Bezos described as “normal circumstances”, be looking at operating profits of at least $4bn in its second quarter, when sales could be up 28%. But these are highly unusual times and Bezos told shareholders they had better sit down because he had big news to pass on.

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