Amazon's pandemic boom is over

Growth has slowed to a 20-year low as Amazon lost revenue for the first time since 2015.

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Karissa Bell
April 28th, 2022
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 25: An Amazon signage is seen a the entrance of the LDJ5 Amazon Sort Center on April 25, 2022 in New York City. The LDJ5 Amazon Sort Center is holding a vote to unionize today across the street from the JFK8 warehouse that voted to unionize earlier this month. On Sunday, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined a rally alongside Amazon Labor Union leaders ahead of the vote.  (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

What a difference a year can make. Roughly one year after pandemic-fueled buying spree pushed Amazon profits to new highs, the retail giant’s growth has now stalled to its slowest rate in more than two decades.

The company reported $116.4 billion in sales for the first quarter of 2021, an increase of just 7 percent from last year. That stands in stark contrast to the 44 percent jump it saw this time last year. It’s also the slowest single-quarter growth the company has seen since 2001, according to CNBC. Amazon lost $3.8 billion this quarter, its first loss since 2015.

The company attributed the slowdown to a number of factors, including effects of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine (something many tech companies have cited in recent earnings reports). The company’s stake in electric car-marker Rivian also accounted for some of the hit, as the company lost more than $7 billion on its investment in the company, whose stock has dipped amid production delays.

The report isn’t the first sign that Amazon has been struggling to turn its characteristically massive profits. The company recently raised the price of Prime for the first time since 2018, citing wage hikes for workers and increasing costs of transportation. The company also hiked prices for sellers by 5 percent.  

The company has also been dealing with a wave of organizing at its warehouses around the country, despite significant investments in anti-union consultants. Notably, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said one of the company’s priorities would be increasing “productivity” at fulfillment centers. “Today, as we’re no longer chasing physical or staffing capacity, our teams are squarely focused on improving productivity and cost efficiencies throughout our fulfillment network.”

Amazon also confirmed that its annual shopping bonanza Prime Day is set for July, though it didn’t provide an exact date.

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