Amazon targets UK businesses with launch of new online marketplace

More than a hundred million products will be available for companies to buy, including laptops, office supplies, furniture and commercial-grade printers

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The Independent Online

Amazon's quest for market domination is becoming harder to ignore. 

The sprawling Seattle-headquartered group on Tuesday said that it is launching a service in the UK aimed at doing for businesses what it already does for individual customers, by offering a marketplace where companies can buy everything from industrial machinery to paper clips and janitorial equipment - even in bulk.

Amazon Business will aim to cater to the procurement needs of businesses of all sizes, as well as institutional buyers including universities, hospitals and non-profits.

“Whether you are a sole trader, a buyer in a mid-size company or a chief procurement officer in a large multi-national organisation, Amazon Business has the products and capabilities to serve your needs,” Bill Burkland, who heads up Amazon Business in the UK, said in a statement.

More than a hundred million products will be available to companies that sign up to the service, including laptops, office supplies, furniture and commercial-grade printers.

Businesses will also be able to buy highly specialised equipment— like power tools and thermal imaging cameras— and lab supplies like microscopes, test tubes and high-speed centrifuges.

Amazon Business already launched in the US in April 2015 and now serves more than 400,000 businesses there. It generated more than $1bn (£800m) in sales in its first year, according to the company. Last December it rolled out in Germany, where it is now used by more than 50,000 business customers.

The latest launch in the UK could help bolster Amazon’s already meteoric stock price rise and it also underscores the company’s commitment to diversifying both its customer base and the services it provides.

Last year, Amazon started a food delivery service across London–directly rivalling players like Deliveroo and UberEats—and more recently the company has launched a drive-through style of bricks-and-mortar supermarket in the US.

Customers order their food online then collect from a warehouse, with bags pre-packed and loaded into the boot by Amazon employees.

And the company’s proven ability to shake up the markets in which it operates seems to be paying off.

Amazon’s share price has surged by close to 50 per cent over the last year to a record high, valuing the company at well over $400bn. Profits last year increased nearly three-fold to $2.4bn on sales of about $136bn, partly thanks to the launch of its Amazon Echo home assistant and the popularity of its media streaming services for Amazon Prime members.

Founder Jeff Bezos recently overtook Warren Buffett in a Bloomberg ranking of the world’s richest people, to nab second spot after Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Mr Bezos, who is also Amazon's chairman and chief executive, is now worth $75.6bn – which marks a massive $10.2bn increase so far in 2017.

The UK is a major market for Amazon and in February the company announced that it intends to expand its workforce in the country by 5,000, despite the uncertainty unleashed by Brexit. 

It said at the time that as a result of the expansion, it would be filing roles across a slew of departments, hiring software developers, engineers and technicians, as well as more junior staff.

Those currently in seasonal roles would be encouraged to take permanent ones, the company said, taking its total UK workforce to more than 24,000.