Amazon is set to launch its Australian retail operations this Friday, putting an end to months of speculation, The New Daily can reveal.
The US-based e-commerce giant is understood to have confirmed the Friday launch in an email to sellers on Tuesday.
Quoting the email from Amazon, retail consultant Scott Kilmartin told The New Daily there would be a “soft launch” of the site on Thursday, followed by an official launch on Friday – to coincide with the annual pre-Christmas discount shopping frenzy known as Black Friday.
It will mean Amazon is also up and running for the e-commerce version of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, on November 27.
The New Daily understands Amazon will mark the launch with nationwide public marketing activities on Thursday, including an ice cream giveaway at Southern Cross station in Melbourne.
“The Country Fire Authority inspected the Amazon Dandenong warehouse yesterday and gave the building clearance to operate,” Mr Kilmartin said.
“The first shift started at 7am this [Tuesday] morning at the warehouse and the .au site is live for a small selection of customers and they will be shipping orders, as an unannounced soft launch today for those who happen to be on the site with access,” he said.
Mr Kilmartin, who is producing a podcast series on Amazon entitled ‘David versus Amazon’, told The New Daily Amazon’s pre-Christmas launch was the big department stores’ “worst nightmare”.
However, he said the reactions of Australian shoppers would be interesting to watch.
“There’s going to be an enormous buzz, but it’s not a new product like an iPhone. It’s a new way of buying, and it will be interesting to see how Joe Punter reacts.”
But, he said, even if the initial consumer response is less than ecstatic, in the longer-term Amazon’s presence in Australia would have an “enormous impact” on the way Australians shop.
Busy at Dandenong
Amazon’s enormous warehouse at Dandenong South was buzzing with activity on Tuesday afternoon. Trucks and cars were coming and going, and the signs suggested it was ready to go.
While no one there would confirm the exact date of the website’s launch, The New Daily was able to learn that workers are expecting it to be up and running soon.
The warehouse itself is by far the largest in the vicinity – and is so long you can’t fit the whole thing into a photograph even from 300 metres away.
What will you be able to buy?
Currently amazon.com.au does exist in Australia, but it only sells books, e-books and Kindles.
But from Friday, the range of products available will explode to include pretty much everything, from tuxedos to paperclips.
Primarily, products available on amazon.com.au will be sold through the Marketplace platform, which allows third party retailers to sell via Amazon, in exchange for a percentage of the sale price.
Initially Amazon signed up 500 retailers to sell through the Australian site, but more are likely to follow.
At a summit in Sydney last week, Amazon revealed it would also be selling its own line of products through its “retail” business.
But what it will not be doing on Friday is launching Amazon Prime.
Amazon Prime is the truly revolutionary side of Amazon’s business – and the one that is really terrifying its competitors. It provides members with ultra-quick, free delivery of their purchases, through a complex web of warehouses and delivery infrastructure – all of which Amazon owns.
It also provides members with a video service to rival Netflix, in both the amount of original content it produces, and its low price.
Eventually, Amazon is likely to launch Prime in Australia. However, Australia’s large landmass and – excluding the dense populations around the big cities – its sparse population will make Prime difficult to roll out across Australia.
Similar conditions have posed problems for Amazon in Canada, where it has not had nearly the same level of success as in the US.
Mr Kilmartin said this meant it might have to limit its full Prime service to metropolitan areas.
Currently, Amazon’s Melbourne warehouse is the only one it has in Australia. But Mr Kilmartin predicted the firm would soon open more, probably in western Sydney and on the Gold Coast.
The New Daily contacted Amazon for confirmation of the end-of-week launch, but received no response at time of publication.