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Amazon doubled the number of cities where it makes speedy same-day delivery available, the e-tailer revealed Wednesday. The total now comes to a dozen U.S. cities where Prime members can order up to 3 million items, practically on demand.
The company launched faster delivery in Philadelphia, Phoenix, Orlando and Dallas one year ago, then followed up by extending it to Nashville and Washington, D.C., in November, bringing the total to six markets. Now, with the latest move, impulse shoppers in Baltimore; Chicago; Detroit; Tampa, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C., and Houston can join the fold.
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“Since launching same-day delivery, we’ve continued to bring customers new levels of convenience and more delivery options to choose from,” Amazon said in a blog post published Wednesday. “Our move to make same-day delivery even faster is just one example of a delivery innovation that gives customers more choice, speed and convenience when receiving their packages.”
The announcement arrives in the wake of Amazon’s second-quarter earnings report, whose lackluster growth after record-breaking quarters shook investors last week and sent its stock price down. Shares, which initially dropped 5 percent before plummeting nearly 8 percent on Friday, are still reeling.
Clearly, the company has been planning to broaden same-day delivery for some time, as no operation could spin up an undertaking of this magnitude overnight. Indeed, the offering was made possible through company investments into scores of regional “mini-fulfillment centers,” according to Amazon.
This slots into the company’s intense interest in expanding its logistics infrastructure. Amazon has been buying up forsaken shopping malls, with as many as some 25 between 2016 and 2019, according to Coresight Research, and it was reportedly looking to convert old J.C. Penney and Sears locations into fulfillment hubs as recently as last year.
But even if such expansions have been in the works for years, the timing of the rollout for more same-day delivery markets looks like something of a gambit to restore confidence in the e-commerce giant.
“Even though in-person shopping has returned, Amazon is expected to once again prove its e-commerce dominance with this expansion,” said Arpit Jain, chief client services officer, digital business consulting firm Nerdery.
For Jain, delivery matters more than ever during a pandemic that has shown itself to be more resilient than first imagined. The combination of online and physical shopping has become “a permanent state for consumers,” and they are increasingly making shopping choices based on how they receive products — whether via shipping, buy online and pick up in store services or by physically entering a location.
“The key is to make this experience seamless,” he said. “This is where Amazon has an edge: Its supply chain efficiency, fast checkout abilities and successful rollout of physical stores has allowed the company to capitalize on online and in-person shopping, even after the pandemic lockdowns were lifted.
“Now, heading into the holiday season, it’ll be crucial for Amazon to avoid disruptions and make strategic moves without Jeff Bezos at the helm to ensure e-commerce success,” Jain added, referring to the company’s founder and just-departed chief executive officer. Andy Jassy, the former chief of Amazon Web Services cloud division, now takes up the mantle, and all eyes will be on the new CEO to prove that he’s up to the task.
Amazon also notably took the opportunity to address another major issue: labor.
Those brand-new mini-fulfillment centers, established in areas where same-day delivery is being offered, are not only “optimized for faster click-to-delivery speeds,” Amazon continued. “These new facilities offer hundreds of well-paying part-time and full-time jobs that give employees and drivers the option to choose work that fits their schedule.”
The company has been plagued recently by negative press over what The National Labor Relations Board determined is Amazon’s illegal discouragement of organizing efforts. The controversy stems from a recent vote at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, which overwhelmingly voted to reject unionization. The NLRB aims to hold another election, while the company vowed to block it.
As if to get in front of the issue, the company included comments by a Phoenix fulfillment worker, listed as Desmond F., in its announcement post. Mr. F. notably waxed enthusiastic about his employment.
“I enjoy working at Amazon because it’s the most fun I’ve had at any job. I feel like my work is valued and my input matters,” he was quoted as saying. “The flexible schedule is also more convenient for planning and balancing my personal life.”
Some employees might feel that way. But others may be concerned that the expansion of same-day Prime delivery will only amplify the already intense pressure and ever-crushing time constraints to get Amazon goods into the hands of customers — in other words, the very conditions that compel some workers to seek unionization in the first place.