If Wall Street could put a book on Amazon.com's wish list, it might be "Double Your Profits. " The company's first-quarter profit fell 30...
If Wall Street could put a book on Amazon.com’s wish list, it might be “Double Your Profits.”
The company’s first-quarter profit fell 30 percent from a year ago to $78 million, or 18 cents a share, because of income taxes, shipping promotions and one-time charges.
The online retailer, for instance, paid $56 million in first-quarter income taxes compared with a $2 million income-tax benefit a year ago.
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Sales rose 24 percent to $1.9 billion, but that figure also carried an exception.
Excluding $30 million in favorable foreign-exchange rates — the company runs five online retail sites in Asia and Europe — sales came in 2 percent lower.
Even though the quarterly results included one-time charges, gains and exceptions, Wall Street had a broader concern: How much money will Amazon need to spend to run its business?
In the past year, Amazon has made significant investments in technology and marketing, moves it insists will bear fruit over time.
For now, “it appears that consumers are rewarded rather than shareholders,” said David Garrity, an analyst with San Diego-based Caris & Co.
In February, the company introduced its first membership program, “Amazon Prime.” For $79 a year, members receive unlimited two-day shipping on every order, and overnight shipping for $3.99 an item.
Amazon already offered free shipping on orders over $25, but customers sacrifice speed for those savings. Under that promotion, shoppers receive orders in roughly five to nine business days.
Chief Executive Jeff Bezos told analysts yesterday that Amazon Prime changes its customers’ perception of online buying. After trying the service, “you start to realize you can use it for a much larger fraction of your purchases than when items were taking longer to arrive,” he said.
Tens of thousands of customers have signed up, saving “millions of dollars” in expedited shipping charges, the company said yesterday. It has seen the most heavy use in electronics, tools, kitchen, health and personal-care products.
Garrity said he thinks roughly 68,000 customers have joined Amazon Prime, based on a simple calculation involving the company’s unearned revenue for the quarter.
“Out of a customer base well into the millions, it seems like a fairly low [adoption] rate,” Garrity said.
While both shipping promotions have served to bolster revenue, they’ve also chipped away at profits. Amazon’s first-quarter shipping loss rose 29 percent to $55 million.
The company, meantime, said its second-quarter operating income would decline compared with the year-ago quarter to between $50 million and $80 million.
The one bright spot: the technology-service deals Amazon closed recently, which carry a higher profit margin than selling its own goods online.
The company announced recently that it would power the Web sites for U.K.-based Marks & Spencer and specialty retailers bebe and OshKosh B’Gosh. And yesterday, the company began offering Macy’s products.
Amazon’s shares yesterday fell 2.5 percent to close at $32.71, dropping another $1.14 in after-hours trading.
The company announced its financial results after the markets closed.
Monica Soto Ouchi: 206-515-5632 or firstname.lastname@example.org