From minnow to monster: 25 years of Amazon

Amazon – probably the most disruptive retailer ever – is celebrating its 25th birthday this month.

“At the very least Amazon has changed the high street forever. It began as a new idea for selling books remotely, but within a few short years it literally sparked a retail revolution,” says Chris Field, retail analyst and CEO of Fieldworks Marketing.

Here’s our quick-fire summary of what has been achieved since the first days of trading from Jeff Bezos’ humble garage back in July 1994.

The beginning

The company was founded as ‘Cadabra’ in Bellevue, Washington, by entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, initially selling only books before gradually branching out  into almost every other sub-sector of commerce.

Audacious growth

Since 1994 Amazon has mastered selling books, music, electronics, homewares and fashion, developing ever-faster, more cost-effective delivery capabilities along the way. In the 1990s it sent shockwaves through traditional ‘brick and mortar’ retailing, catapulting online shopping into the realms of everyday life for global consumers, to the detriment of millions of physical shops large and small, all over the world.

Tech giant status

A quarter of a century since its inception, the company is well established among the big four tech giants and its founder Bezos is reportedly worth $164.9 billion in 2019.

Amazon Go store Physical retail next

Having successfully dominated online retail, Amazon has now set its sights on opening physical stores. It bought the Whole Foods Market grocery chain in the US in 2017 and has caught the world’s attention with Amazon Go outlets which have opened in the US and are expected in new territories in the coming years.

Pop-up shops are appearing in leading cities around the world providing Amazon with a way to test ideas and new formats, and to give its small sellers a chance to showcase product.

Using technology and tapping into its Prime subscription membership strategy – it’s likely that Amazon will create an entirely new way of shopping in the next few years of operation. In-store deals and events that are only available to Prime members is just one way that the giant can leverage and grow its already-vast subscription service.

Key dates – 25 years of Amazon

2000 – Launch of Amazon Marketplace allowing other companies to sell on the Amazon platform

2005 – Launch of Amazon Prime membership

2006 – Launch of Amazon Prime Video

2006 – Launch of Amazon Web Services (AWS), its first major cloud-computing service

2007 – Launch of Amazon Kindle – Amazon’s first consumer hardware product

2016 – Amazon’s video-on-demand service Prime Video is rolled out to more than 200 countries and territories around the world

2017 – Amazon acquires Whole Foods Market the US organic grocery chain for $13.7 billion

2018 – Amazon becomes the biggest online sales platform in the world, constituting 45% of the global industry

2018 – The first Amazon Go stores opens in Seattle

2018 – Amazon’s total e-commerce sales are worth $524 billion

25 years since launch, what is Amazon up to today?

Amazon Prime delivery Amazon today is best known as the world’s largest online store. But that’s just part of the story.

  • Amazon sells vast amounts of advertising on its website, making the company a small but growing rival to Facebook and Google.
  • With its acquisition of Whole Foods Market in 2017 and a growing number of high-tech, cashier-less convenience stores, Amazon is expanding into the grocery sector.
  • Amazon has become the world’s biggest provider of cloud-computing services.
  • Amazon is a hardware manufacturer with an expanding line of smart speakers, tablets and video streaming gadgets.
  • Amazon is a media production giant too. Amazon Studios makes original television shows and movies and is starting to steal awards from Netflix and HBO.
  • More than 100 million paying customers are now members of subscription service Amazon Prime, which also offers video and music streaming.
  • Amazon Prime day has become a globally recognised shopping event, although the 2-day event in July 2019 prompted employees to strike over pay and conditions.

But it’s all relative….

On a final note, it’s worth remembering that despite being the largest e-commerce player in the world, Amazon still only accounts for roughly 1 per cent of global retail.



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