Signs Point to Amazon Prime Day’s Return to July
By Glenn Taylor
In one of the biggest signs that retail may be leveling out with a sense of normalcy, Amazon may be bringing its Prime Day sales event back from October to its original summer spot in July, if its posting on a U.K.-based seller forum is any indication.
On March 11, the e-commerce giant reportedly wrote on the Amazon Services Seller Forums, in the “UK Announcements” section, that the Lightning Deals and Prime Member Voucher submission window for Prime Day 2021 is now open.
“The deadline for submissions is Friday, April 23, 2021 for Lighting Deals, and Friday, May 28, 2021 for Prime Member Vouchers. Submit your promotions now for a chance to have your deal considered for this event,” the company said.
Amazon wouldn’t comment directly on the forum post or the speculation around the proposed date, but a rep for the company told Sourcing Journal, “We haven’t made any announcements about Prime Day.”
In the post on the Seller Forum, Amazon gave recommendations to sellers on creating offerings, outlining what may be expected of the Lighting Deals. The products are advised to be at least 20 percent or 50 pounds/50 euros ($69/$59) below the current site price and they must match or beat the lowest price of the year. Additionally, they should have a 3.5+ star rating and a “strong sales history.”
T3, one of the publications that first reported on Amazon’s notice, predicted that Prime Day 2021 will run over two days from July 12-13.
Amazon held its Prime Day event in July every year from its inception in 2015 all the way through 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic threw a wrench into those plans last year.
But the event was lucrative for Amazon, pushing the e-commerce giant past the $100 billion mark in quarterly sales for the first time at $125.6 billion, a 44 percent total increase from the year-before quarter. Amazon doesn’t explicitly reveal all the numbers from the event, but JP Morgan analysts estimated that the two-day haul reeled in $7.5 billion, a 42 percent uptick over 2019’s $5.3 billion tally.
The company did unveil that the event has become a major occasion for its third-party sellers, saying that the business on the Amazon platform surpassed $3.5 billion in Prime Day sales, nearly 60 percent higher than in 2019.
Amid moving the shopping extravaganza to Oct. 13-14 last year, Amazon had a big hand in essentially pushing the entire retail holiday season one month earlier. Mass merchants like Walmart and Target both staged their own store-wide seasonal event in the same week, with an array of deals on different products. In total, retail sales ended up jumping 10.6 percent year over year in October 2020, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
Showing how much power the month of October really had, retail sales actually dipped 0.3 percent from October to November, NRF said, even with the inclusion of Thanksgiving weekend dominating the month’s sales. November’s overall year-over-year sales growth was still a healthy 8.8 percent.
The shift back to July would likely mean a more traditional holiday season for the industry at large, which would be good news for all the retailers that had to fortify their fulfillment and delivery operations only to still struggle with record e-commerce purchases.
If anything, the date change is going to have an impact on back-to-school spending, which was pushed from a typical late July-early August start to September last year as shoppers remained unsure about the status of school openings.
Like the 2020 holiday season, Prime Day was in many ways associated with pulling back-to-school sales forward in the years prior as shoppers looked to find attractive deals on apparel, school supplies and electronics.
In July 2019, a RetailMeNot survey found that the 64 percent of parents that planned to shop during the Prime Day event expected to wrap up as much as 35 percent of their shopping for back-to-school. Prime Day, according to the survey of 1,000 adults, was the No. 1 shopping period for back-to-school, followed by the first weekend in August and Labor Day weekend.
Even Amazon itself should be better prepared now that it’s not looking at the one-two punch of Prime Day and the usual holiday rush. The company had 1.3 million employees at the end of its fiscal 2020, but this total included a combined 200,000 hires in both September and October ahead of the record online demand. With this many employees handling the event without the holiday madness attached, one would think that Amazon’s overall delivery operations have room for improvement for the 2021 extravaganza.
Covid outbreak at Ontario warehouse sparks investigation
The potential Prime Day move comes as Amazon sees new drama related to the handling of Covid-19 outbreaks and overall labor conditions. In Brampton, Ontario, an Amazon warehouse that was ordered to shut down earlier in March due to a major outbreak is now being investigated for potential labor violations, according to Ontario’s provincial government.
Peel Public Health’s Dr. Lawrence C. Loh said the outbreak at the Amazon facility, which employs approximately 5,000 workers, began in October and has since been linked to more than 600 cases.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour said the investigation was already underway when the local public health unit ordered thousands of workers at the facility to isolate for two weeks.
“We continue to work closely with Peel Public Health and others to provide support, advice and enforcement as needed to ensure the health and safety of Ontario’s workers,” the spokesperson said.
Penalties for labor violations could be as high as $1.5 million CAD ($1.2 million) or imprisonment, with the spokesperson saying the government would not hesitate to hold employers accountable if they fail to keep their employees safe.
Amazon Canada said workers would be paid during the 14-day quarantine, but it disputed the data being used to support the plant closure, pointing to a round of tests that recently came back with a positivity rate of less than 1 percent. It has said it plans to appeal the decision.
Peel Public Health said the closure will give the company further time to consider additional operational changes that may help prevent coronavirus outbreaks in future.
In February, labor inspectors carried out 200 inspections on the warehouses and distribution centers in the Peel Region, a Covid-19 hot spot with a high number of outbreaks in workplaces. Twenty-six tickets were issued, according the Ministry of Labour.