Traditionally, Amazon's biggest shopping event isn't Black Friday or Cyber Monday. It isn't even during the holiday season. Instead, Amazon Prime Day--the online retailer's most important shopping days--usually happens during the summer. Since it first launched in 2015, that's been sometime in July, though last year the company moved it to October as a result of the pandemic.
This year, it looks like Amazon is planning to move Prime Day again--this time earlier in the year, by at least a few weeks.
Moving Prime Day is actually a bit of a big deal, though maybe not for the reason you might expect. Last year it happened as the company was already coping with an incredible surge in online shopping. Amazon had already limited the amount of non-essential products in its warehouse in an effort to help people get the things they needed, at a time when going to the grocery store caused anxiety.
This year, it's likely that the move has less to do with alleviating demand during a surge, but instead, trying to match it.
Jason Del Rey, writing for Recode--which first reported the change--speculates that the reason could be related to the record quarter the company had last year as people flocked to the online retailer for everything from toilet paper to iPads when shutdowns went into effect across the country. As a result, the company posted a gain of 40 percent during the second quarter, a number it is unlikely to match this year.
That has ramifications for the millions of small businesses that sell on Amazon, since Prime Day is a major source of sales for those retailers. In fact, Amazon says that around half of all purchases on the site are from third-party sellers.
In that sense, if Amazon is planning to hold its Prime Day event in the next few months, we should expect it to let sellers know. As of now, Amazon hasn't commented on its plans and has yet to make an announcement about dates for Prime Day 2021.
Generally, for the small businesses that sell on Amazon's Marketplace, whether Prime Day happens in June or July is probably not that much of a difference. I suspect many of them are happy to have a boost in their sales during the traditionally slower summer months and care less about which week it happens.
There is, however, a lesson here--and it's one that's worth your time. If Amazon is moving Prime Day up because it wants to count the sales in its second-quarter results, that's fine, but it does set a precedent. It means it's pretty likely that Prime Day will fall in June moving forward. Amazon isn't likely to want to boost its results this year, only to have them drop next year.
That's understandable. After all, Amazon is a business, and it has to make its shareholders happy. Then again, if the only reason Amazon is doing it is that it's concerned about how things look on the financial statements, that's a sharp departure from the culture Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, built over the past 25 years.
When once asked what he would say to investors who were concerned about the fact that Amazon rarely posted a profit, and instead invested everything back into the business, Bezos said simply that "they should be investing in a company that obsesses over customer experience." The point was that the guiding decision of the company was serving the customer, not the earnings report. It always seemed to believe that the former would always benefit the latter.
If that's changed, I'm not sure that's a good thing, and it has nothing to do with when Prime Day happens.
Update: An Amazon spokesperson has since provided a statement that "Prime Day will be set without regard to Wall Street," though they declined to provide further information about the change in date.