How Much Does Amazon Make Around the Holidays?

Szczecin, Poland-November 2018: Amazon Logistics Center in Szczecin, Poland in the light of the rising sun,panorama.
Mike Mareen / Shutterstock.com

Jeff Bezos, who has a less than lofty philanthropic reputation, recently donated $500,000 at the Baby 2 Baby charity, which was founded in honor of Kobe Bryant’s widow. That’s the equivalent of a 30-cent donation for the median household, according to Inc. — and they got that out of him only after someone else donated more money first. Time reports that, despite lofty promises, Bezos has given just 0.7% of his fortune to charity, and he’s one of only a handful of the ultra-rich who haven’t signed the Giving Pledge.

But, if Bezos seems like somewhat of a Grinch this holiday season, then his company is Santa’s entire workshop plus the reindeer that run shipping and logistics. No matter how much the company’s boss donates or doesn’t, for Amazon, winter is the season of earning.

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So Far This Holiday Season, Amazon Has Underwhelmed

Just as Amazon was the most visible face of the e-commerce boom of 2020, it looks like Amazon also will close the door on the pandemic’s online shopping boom.

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Amazon’s shares cratered at the end of October, when the world’s largest online retailer conceded that its entire fourth-quarter profits could be wiped out. That’s because Amazon spent billions to hire new workers and bolster its shipping operations in order to survive a holiday season defined by inflation and broken supply chains. It warned investors that its operating income could be zero.

Not only did Amazon disappoint with soft guidance for the fourth quarter, but it missed on both the top and bottom lines in the third quarter, when profits dropped by the most in four years, according to MarketWatch. Sales were down in Q3 as well, and revenue and earnings missed Wall Street expectations.

As Amazon Goes, So Go the Holidays

According to Fortune and the Philadelphia Inquirer, many industry watchers worry that Amazon’s recent disappointments are a harbinger of doom not just for the holiday shopping season but for the pandemic e-commerce boom in general. Apple, too, gave investors few reasons to smile with its own quarterly report, adding more fuel to the speculation that even the biggest and richest tech companies are struggling to navigate the post-pandemic waters of inflation and clogged supply chains.

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Take a Look: How Amazon Changed Our Shopping Habits — For Better and Worse

But Let’s Keep Things in Perspective

It’s true that Amazon badly missed its Q3 earnings and revenue and that it lowered its holiday sales guidance for the year’s remaining quarter — but a bad three months for Bezos’s company is still pretty impressive.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Amazon has raked in billions in profits every quarter since early 2018. Even if it only breaks even on profit in Q4, it would be because the company spent billions to avoid a holiday disaster and retain the customers it gained during the pandemic — which, according to Motley Fool, it mostly has.

Amazon capped off its record-breaking 2020 with an extraordinary holiday season. In last year’s fourth quarter, Amazon reported $125.56 billion in revenue, compared to the $119.7 billion that Wall Street expected. It was the first time the company did 12-figure quarterly revenue, and it hasn’t missed a beat since.

Q3 2021 — which investors are so sour on — was the fourth straight quarter with revenue above $100 billion. Not only did Amazon keep its 12-figure streak going in its supposedly disappointing third quarter, but the $110.8 billion in sales was 15% higher than the same quarter in its record-breaking 2020 year.

As for the heart of the holiday season, it’s true that Amazon scaled back its guidance for the fourth quarter — but scaled back to what? Amazon is still projecting revenue of $130 billion to $140 billion. That’s growth of 4% to 12% over the same quarter last year, which was Amazon’s best ever and the first time it topped $100 billion.

Also, Amazon got something for all of the money it spent in the run-up to the holidays — Bezos employs 30% more people now than he did this time last year, according to Fortune.

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Don’t Forget, Amazon’s No One-Trick Pony

It’s easy to forget that Amazon does more than just sell Instant Pots and tchotchkes. Most of Amazon’s profit comes from its cloud computing/web services division — and that never takes a holiday. As investors and analysts were busy lamenting Amazon’s terrible news — which included projections for the company’s biggest holiday season ever — they somehow missed that the web services division did $16.1 billion in sales, for an incredible increase of 39%.

In short, Amazon likely will break its own quarterly revenue record without making a profit and have its biggest holiday season ever while managing to disappoint Wall Street.

And, when all is said and done and 2022 is finally here, Jeff Bezos will have plenty more money to not give away. 

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.

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