Amazon sellers see ‘scary’ holiday shopping season as consumers pull back – Daily News

on Sep12
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By Spencer Soper | Bloomberg sellers are bracing for a bleak holiday shopping season as inflation-bitten consumers curb their spending.

Many merchants, who sell more than half of the goods on Amazon’s web store, fear they’ll be forced to cut prices to move a mountain of unsold inventory. It’s an abrupt change from the previous two years when sellers scrambled to get enough products into Amazon warehouses to meet pandemic-fueled demand even as chronic shortages let them jack up prices.

This year US online sales will rise just 9.4% to $1 trillion, the first time growth has slipped into the single digits, according to Insider Intelligence, which in June lowered its earlier annual forecast. Spending on Amazon will hit $400 billion, up 9% and slower than the overall industry, the research firm says.

“Consumers don’t seem to be spending much on anything beyond basic necessities, so sellers have to offer discounts and coupons and aggressive marketing, which can be expensive,” said Lesley Hensell, a co-founder of Riverbend Consulting, which advises Amazon sellers. “The fourth quarter looks scary this year.”

The challenging holiday shopping season was Topic A this week at the Surge Summit, an e-commerce networking event hosted by Hensell’s firm that drew about 300 sellers to Tampa, Florida. During a session called “Navigating the Bear Market as a Seller,” dozens of merchants discussed the abrupt shift in consumer behavior and how to adjust their businesses accordingly.

Korion Morris, who ran the bear-market session, is the director of growth at Unybrands, which owns e-commerce companies in such categories as baby, fitness and personal care. He told attendees that Unybrands is trying to hold the line on prices by cutting logistical and other costs.

“Consumers are hurting right now,” Morris said during the event. “In the rare instances we do increase pricing, we’ll add a promotion to offset it.”

Amazon itself is being forced to adjust to the new normal. The world’s largest e-commerce company was saddled with too many warehouses and workers when the pandemic boom ended. Amazon has since abandoned dozens of existing and planned facilities around the US, according to MWPVL International Inc., a closely watched research firm.

Some of the closings are related to a modernization program, an Amazon spokesperson said last week, and the company continues to open facilities where customer demand requires extra capacity.

Responding to merchants’ concerns about a lackluster holiday shopping season, an Amazon spokesperson said sellers using the company’s logistics service typically pay less than other methods. Amazon has also expanded a program offering low shipping costs on inexpensive items to include products weighing up to three pounds; previously the limit was 12 ounces.

“Sellers are incredibly important to Amazon, and we work every day to provide them with powerful tools and services that help reduce their operational burdens, build their brands and connect them with customers so they can rapidly grow their businesses through busy shopping periods and beyond,” spokesperson Patrick Graham said in an emailed statement.

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