For the longest time, sales growth has been integral to Amazon.com's (NASDAQ:AMZN) business. Annual sales growth in North America in 2015 and 2016 was 25%, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence; it was 33% in 2017 and 2018.
Last year, sales growth slowed to 21%; now, it looks like Amazon wants to go into reverse.
By now it's common knowledge that Amazon's supply chain has been struggling to cope with the stress of COVID-19. Last month, the company announced delays in shipments of "nonessential" merchandise to ensure it has the manpower to keep shipments of essential food, medical, and cleaning supplies flowing. This week, the company appeared to relent on that policy, as new workers brought online were expected to permit it to lift restrictions on third parties selling nonessential goods through Amazon's marketplace.
And yet, the company doesn't want shoppers to get carried away. As CEO Jeff Bezos explained in a letter to shareholders today, "Amazonians are working around the clock to get necessary supplies delivered directly to the doorsteps of people who need them" (emphasis added). And that may require deemphasizing sales of nonessentials.
To that end, as The Wall Street Journal reports, Amazon has been quietly "retooling" its website to reduce pressure on consumers to shop more, removing e-widgets, for example, that suggest additional purchases "shoppers like you" made on its site.
The company may also postpone its annual July "Prime Day" shopping extravaganza, and even cancel marketing pushes promoting Mother's Day and Father's Day shopping.
Suffice it to say, these are a lot of incremental sales that Amazon seems intent on forgoing. Investors looking for a return to accelerating sales growth at the e-tailer, when it reports quarterly earnings next week, may be in for a disappointment.