That, in itself, is just curious. But the interesting lesson here is that the real thing has not been "web presence" or world wide visibility, it was Amazon has built a pretty impressive logistics setup for moving stuff from vendors to users. It rivals what Sears & Roebuck did in the 60's and 70's. THAT seems to be the missing piece which one might call "logistics as a service."
It makes me wonder why Aliexpress doesn't have more warehouses in the US. Clearly there are a number of Amazon vendors who buy from factories advertising on AE and then drop ship to Amazon, and sell at a markup that covers Amazon's take and gives them a profit. So basically Amazon is taking a big piece of the "value chain" from factory to customer. If you can run a distributed logistics operation at 20% or even 15% of the market value of the goods your distributing, you can under cut Amazon.
Given that Walmart already has relationships with freight forwarders from China and a bunch of brick and mortar stores that could double as warehouses, I wonder if they have considered this as a "side hustle."
Considering that this hinges on the cost of operations for the logistics service the interest in logistic based robotics is quite understandable.
My guess would be liability. A lot of what's sold on Aliexpress is... questionable. Fakes, products that are patently unsafe or don't meet US regulations, fraudulent specs, etc.
What's happening right now is basically a bit of a laundering operation where small "front" businesses in the US, often registered to residential addresses, import small chunks of the inventory, collect markup, and resell it domestically on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, walmart.com marketplace, or whatnot.
And if their USB chargers keep catching fire or a big brand gets uppity about trademark infringement, the retailer disappears, and a new one pops up. Amazon gets some flak in the media every now and then, but they are several steps removed from the phenomenon.
If you had a Chinese megacorp with a large US footprint, they would likely soon find themselves in hot water with all kinds of regulatory agencies. Partly because there would be a single party with gobs of money to go after, and partly because of anti-China sentiments.
If Aliexpress would do this, they themselves would be liable. Here in Spain that do have stores but they have a highly curated inventory.
I wonder how much further Amazon can go in this direction before it runs into the same problem?
This is why it's so galling to see people in Silicon Valley moaning about the recent round of IT retrenchments. The f*king nerve of them.
Tech companies didn’t cause offshoring of US manufacturing. That’s been a long running trend since the 70’s across business sectors.
Not to mention that generally it’s executives at the companies who made the decisions leading to offshoring, and executives aren’t the ones losing their jobs.
Tech workers are grossly overpaid, but even so at the end of the day they’re still working class.
Do you mean this seriously? Corporations come and go all the time, and if they make a catastrophic decision, usually the worst possible outcome is bankruptcy, not war.
Yes, there is a tiny amount of "too big to fail" corporations whose characteristics are closer to a state than to a private organization, but compared to the government, any single corporation has negligible influence on your life.
Modern governments have enormous powers.
Like, obviously I'd be in a big trouble if my password manager suddenly put all of my data online and it could lead to massive financial damage.
At the same time, there are governments that literally have the power to kill their citizens (or citizens of nearby countries). At least LastPass can't declare a war upon me.
True, but an individual is vulnerable almost by definition. A schizophrenic neighbor may decide that you are an alien in human skin and kill you. (I have a friend who barely survived precisely such encounter, being shot no less than 9 times from a CZ75. I have seen the (healed) entry wounds, that guy was extremely lucky.)
Nevertheless it takes a government to ruin lives of an entire nation.
China got low-value-add final assembly work, and it's now starting to leave them as their wages have risen.
Amazon also did this for it's physical stores. Walmart does not do this for it's web presence - it has a third party marketplace you need to actively avoid.
I have both Prime and Walmart+ due to credit card benefits, and honestly don't see a huge difference in either experiences. Amazon is more spammy but faster shipping, Walmart less selection and slower but more reliable shipping. Walmart is more curated, but you still need to ignore the third party crap.
I avoid it like the plague. I don't even use their website because it's hard to consistently filter that crap out. And their site wasn't great to start off with in any case. Good riddens.
Which has some obviously fake reviews along with probably a real comment stating:
"Only problem is the transfer speed sucks and it causes errors in half the files I transfer to it."
Truly emblematic of how these scam USB drives work. And its the top organic result on walmart.com!
People worked out you can compete with Walmart by having a deeper selection as long as the population density supports it, but it’s not clear what small retail can do to survive Amazon.
There are a mix of ways to profitability operate with Amazon both legitimately or via various kinds of fraud. However, suggesting that transition is often as reasonable as telling a barber to open a veterinary clinic, it’s just a completely different kind of business.
But either way business is dog eat dog and you have evolve to survive. Don’t blame the competition for building a better mousetrap. This is free markets and capitalism operating as intended.
I have no problem with capitalism crushing companies, as long as it’s head to head in a free market rather than based on fraud or avoiding regulations. I am simply pointing out Amazon has been a huge net loss for small businesses, which it objectively has.
And my gripe is that they project their failure at Amazon rather than owning their own poor decisions.
It isn’t at fault for people preferring to buy stuff online or Amazon’s highly efficient supply chain etc.
They deliberately chose a way of storing products that makes them vulnerable to fraud. Fixing that would require storing them differently (which would be more expensive to them).
Likewise, cutting down on unsafe or white label products would increase the quality of the products they sell but adding a vetting process and stricter moderation would significantly increase labor costs per product and if companies at scale want to avoid one thing, it's dynamic labor costs.
They literally can't do better at cleaning up the fraud because there is no market incentive for them to do so and doing so would reduce profits and thus shareholder value. To borrow your line: it's just free markets and capitalism working as intended.
I don’t know of any other platform that has a markedly better vetting process, Walmart, eBay, AliExpress, Wish, etc all have much the same or worse issues with this. But they all seam to be very pro consumer when it comes to returns, none seem to ask any questions.
Maybe it’s not a conspiracy but rather an industry wide problem of playing wack-a-mole with scammers, that every platform is continually dealing with.
Based on my experience most of those small businesses are reselling uncertified whitelabel shovelware (especially electronics) from Ali Express. That's a bit like praising cancer for rejuvenating the body by reducing the mean age of all cells.
Of course you could also say it created a lot of businesses via "self-employed" last mile delivery drivers but I think we're all adult enough to acknowledge that the gig economy is a scam to skirt labor laws, not an actual net positive for those working within it.
Pretending small businesses could have kept up with Amazon by "doing the same" is absurd. Small businesses lack the infrastructure to offer one day (or even same day) deliveries and free returns with full refunds. We've reached a point where buyers take these things for granted to the point of balking at shipping costs for goods privately sold on eBay classifieds because they have no idea what delivery companies like UPS or DHL charge.
Even as a marketplace, Amazon cannibalizes its sellers via its "Amazon basics" brand which copies products if they get popular enough and often undercuts their pricing while also benefiting from the Amazon branding.
> Whereas Amazon was an equalizer allowing anyone to compete in a global marketplace, those that opted not to, got their lunch stolen.
Saying "allowed anyone" makes it sound like it was optional, yet that "those that opted not to" died off demonstrates that it wasn't. It's nearly impossible to start a small local retail shop but it's also nearly impossible to be a small retail seller on Amazon. There's a reason white label shovelware dropshipping is so ubiquituous: by creating your own brand to resell white label products you make it harder to compare you to your competitors selling the same garbage and you no longer have to directly compete on price. This is effectively the only kind of business on Amazon marketplace that doesn't directly suffer the race to the bottom.
> This is free markets and capitalism operating as intended.
Yes, that's the problem. Free markets accelerate monopolization by forcing local small businesses to compete globally with international megacorps on those megacorps' terms.
The benefits of small local businesses are externalities to capitalism so they get sanded off eventually. Free global markets just rapidly speed up that process.
I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, nor fair, more pointing out that attacking them for using the levers and dials available To them to return value to shareholders, is short sighted. literally every other company is doing the same, just not as efficiently.
Amazon should be held accountable for their failures and for the harms they are causing to both customers and employees so that the next company to rise up knows that abusing workers and turning a blind eye to fraud won't be tolerated and that the laws and protections enacted to rein in amazon's exploitative practices will effect them as well.
Walmart has never to the best of my knowledge been accused of the rampant selling of counterfeit goods in their physical stores nor do the people who deliver to stores have to “pee in bottles”.
I do think that fixing a lot of the "quibbles" people have concerning Walmart and Amazon would help make things more competitive and help give smaller stores a better chance though.
For someone that doesn’t sell consumer goods that cut can sound like a lot.
But getting distributed in brick and mortar retail, the cut is far greater (at least 50%).
And the alternative is direct online sales, which only recently has become viable in a scalable way for most consumer brands (thinking of the DTC revolution here)
Hence the "rule" that your cost of goods needs to be 1/3 of the MSRP if you want to go through two tiers of distribution.
At Freegate we shipped directly to retailers and gave them 30 points off MSRP, but that meant on a new order, they ordered from us, we shipped to them and they shipped to the customer so a fairly long lead time between order to arrival.
When I was at Google the PM for "consumer devices" was looking at what it would cost to get things on the shelf at Fry's and Bestbuy and the price negotiation was more about where on the shelf it sat rather than store profit it seemed. Something to factor in to the economics as well.
But the bottom line here is that there is a "market price" for something, and the "cost to get it to market" + "cost to make it" and if that market price is less than the sum of the other two, well you can't make it up on volume :-).
I think Amazon's LAAS business made that calculation simpler and thus there was less uncertainty about whether or not one could make any money selling them.
On the model of "make the profit on replacement parts," perhaps grocery chains should be buying hospitals chains to profit from all the unhealthy food they are selling.
Everything promised in the dot com boom has basically happened, right down to the much-maligned delivering pet food over the internet.
It just didn't happen fast enough to save them in the late 1990s, and the space was just overinvested even so.
When Chewy starts to make more than they spend then it will be interesting, but as it stands now it just looks like we're in a bigger bubble rather than solving problems that couldn't be solved back then.
I'd suspect they do. Here in Australia, it's really common to get AliExpress goods delivered in 2-3 business days, with an AusPost label on the box and a return address in Melbourne.
Even for goods not physically located in the country, they're clearly doing something clever in terms of consolidating packages, booking out large chunks of air cargo space and dispatching from a local warehouse. Same deal with the Australian return address, but 7-10 days instead of 2-3.
You can tell when they're coming via this route, as they'll have the shipping method "AliExpress Standard Shipping". CaiNiao is still your bog standard 4-6 weeks by boat.
This is a pretty new thing, and only came about after China lost access to subsidised global shipping (as in, subsidies from other developed countries, not the Chinese Government) in 2021.
AliExpress sellers also lost access to subsidised shipping from the Chinese government in the last few years. Prior to this, for certain locally manufactured goods, they could send them overseas at a rate of something like 1 yuan per half-kilo (essentially US$0.02 or so for a USB cable), hence why you'd get all these $1 items with free shipping.
It makes me wonder why Aliexpress doesn't have more warehouses in the US
I see an obvious gatekeeper.
As a game, can you find any example of a foreign company successfuly setting up infra in the US to chalenge an US behemoth ?
Japanese/German car makers
A whole host (most?) of clothing retailers all across the price spectrum, (H&M, Zara, Uniqlo at the low end, most luxury brands are European - this market is dominated by foreign firms)
Gas/gas stations (Shell, BP)
I think it'd be harder to find industries without foreign companies operating in the US
Restiction were set on import volume and makers comprnsated with US production as a politcal middle-ground. Those large amounts are partly (mainly ?) US cars.
As you point out, luxury brands is where foreign companies have a presence. Feels like small potatoes to me.
> Shell, BP
Am not well versed in oil, but from a cursory look at Shell it has a US entity traded in the US market, partly producing US gas to US customers: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_USA
H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo are luxury?
> Am not well versed in oil, but from a cursory look at Shell it has a US entity traded in the US market, partly producing US gas to US customers: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_USA
It's literally the US subsidiary of Shell? It's still owned and controlled by the foreign company. This is how international business works once companies reach a scale where they employee large numbers of workers in a foreign country. See Ford of Europe, ExxonMobil Europe, Apple Japan etc - these aren't European/Japanese companies, they're just branches of American ones
None of them are building infra to a level that rivals US behemoths. They are well known foreigns brands, but nether commands a high market share nor represent an existential threat to US brands.
Top 2 on the market should be Amazon and Wallmart, in whichever order:
To note even Gap is bigger than any of those 3 mentionned.
I was pointing at the luxury market because there’s probably more competion from the outside.
You’re not answering on how it operates in the US. Toyota US is in the same situation: it’s a subsidiary of the Japanese entity, but still “builds” cars in the US. Customer perceive them as Japanese cars perhaps, but if they‘re not marked at imported cars, that perception is just misplaced.
Shell US refining its own oil in the US falls in the same bucket to me.
The discussion was wether there was examples of foreign companies building infra to directly import foreign goods into the US market. It seems to be diverging into “are there well know and successful foreign brands in the US”
Nokia on phones vs the Bell companies, Toshiba on laptops, pretty much everyone on the PC vs IBM, the entire Steel industry, the railroad industry before them, Japanese cars eating Detroit's lunch, Zenith and RCA's TV market, GE's appliance market.
Where is the gatekeeper in the Amazon/Aliexpress scenario? I'm sorry but I don't see that one yet.
EDIT: You did say "infra" and the best example I know of are the foreign car companies that set up factories here to build cars in the US to get around import issues.
Your second part and edit on car manufacturers is spot on: they were set a quota of "US made" cars and had to build factories in the US as a condition to continue chalenging US local makers.
I'd call that gatekeeping
I see those actions as setting up barriers but they do prevent people who can't meet that barrier out. My thinking of gatekeeping is more absolute, as in "there is no way for you to enter here" and thus "breaking the gate" would have legal and/or diplomatic consequences.
So for me there are two concepts, trade barriers and gatekeeping. Tariffs come under the heading of trade barriers as well in my view.
In that sense, your view on gatekeeping would be more like what happened to Huawei and how they were straight banned from the US market.
It sometimes happens, but few things are so black and white in politics and market regulations IMO. Killing the viability of an import route by pushing the tarrifs outside of the reasonable range is often enough and helps to avoid "smoking gun" headlines.
What's the best illustration of your point ?
As long as the US listens to or need the votes of their people, they cant be a free market.
No these small business owners are way smarter than you on this, they won’t even consider Amazon if that’s not saving their cost.
Temu by Pinduoduo are trying their luck. Let's see in a few years.
Maybe revealing - the incentives provided by the 1/3 cut are maybe why Amazon succeeded and Sun did not.
I can't really agree with this. Amazon started out by using existing delivery services. And the quality of delivery from Amazon at that time was much higher. Now that they prefer using their own delivery services, their delivery sucks. They've built a logistics setup that is much worse than what we already had.
Taobao (under Alibaba) has 100 times more influence on how small business in China conduct business. I know small store owners whose business were wiped out by the rise of Taobao. Amazon? They've never heard of it.
And the funny thing is these even exist in Germany now. In Duisburg I met some Chinese taobao merchants years ago who'd settled as expats in the city because it has particularly strong ties to the country as there's a direct freight train route to Chongqing.
Returning an item because you have found a better price elsewhere is a pre-filled option for a return, so it is expressly allowed.
He says anytime anyone who has been abusing the return policy gets angry about being told no, he goes into his script about “Sir/ma’am it’s clear to me you haven’t been happy with the goods and services we sell here at Costco. How about I go ahead and cancel your membership and offer you a FULL refund of the annual fee.”
Gets people in-line REAL fast knowing they might end up blacklisted from Costco.
"Sir/ma’am it’s clear to me you haven’t been happy with the goods and services we sell here at Costco. How about I go ahead and cancel your membership"
"Returning an item because you have found a better price elsewhere is a pre-filled option for a return, so it is expressly allowed."
Are both excellent examples of malicious compliance.
For example: a clothing store accepts free returns for couple days after purchase in physical store, or doesn't try to obstruct in any way the EU-wide 14-day return policy for goods bought online? That store eventually gets flooded with returns, as some scoundrels figure they can attract their preferred kind of mates by buying expensive clothes before a party and hiding the tags (instead of removing them), and then return those clothes back to the store the very next day, to get full refund.
This is a real thing that was happening where I live, and led to clothes being much more annoying to unpack, as well as some silly rules on shoe returns, which occasionally cause pretty absurd situations (those running shoes were quickly labeled as "walking shoes, not suitable for running"; we can't accept the return because you admitted to running in them).
That use case, along with hedging your risk by buying 10 different items on-line, fully intending to return at least 8 of them, is common enough that there are businesses targeting people doing this directly (e.g. "clothing as a service" companies).
EDIT: FWIW, I do understand the desire and pleasure of figuring out a loophole in a set of rules and milking it for all its worth. But in shopping and e-commerce, following those rules to the letter selfishly almost always involves generating tremendous waste for the vendor, the society and the environment, and because of those externalities I don't think highly of such behavior.
So many people buy things without even thinking about it, use it once or twice, decide they don't need it, and then return it. It goes back, often without packaging, probably off to a landfill. All those resources and value just tossed into a pit, hidden in Amazon's bottom line. Its insane to me.
Forever easy returns just seem so incredibly damaging to me.
Clothing manufacturers, however, make this really annoying when they don't have to.
Clothing sizes don't mean anything. Consequently, you can order your "size" and still find things are completely out to lunch.
If you could get a real "specification" on clothing, then I would have far less of an issue with companies cracking down on returns.
Amazon, however, comes in for special approbation as I simply can't trust that whatever I'm receiving has any resemblance to what I expected from what I ordered.
Ever try buying Christmas lights on Amazon? The advisable way is to just buy a ton of things and return whatever is broken, which in 2021, out of 6 sets of lights I bought, I ended up returning 5.
Kids clothing is just random. Like, fuck it, 2 items, same manufacturer, same listed size, but completely different real world sizes, as in "item 1 is oversized and is large enough to wear next year, item 2 is too small by far, return both and try again".
The solution is to not buy from places like Amazon. I bought my lights from somewhere else and other than a broken bulb that was fixed with the included extra lights I was 5 for 5 on working lights on bargain bin quality strands/nets.
Quit supporting the marketplaces that shovel trash on us.
Big box home improvement stores (Lowes, Home Depot) stop selling lights early December. They mostly sell generic knock offs, at insanely high prices. The $120 reindeer I bought from Home Depot was poor quality, and broke after one year.
Bargain bin lights tend to be incandescent, which, even though the colors are superior, I still want to avoid.
In 2021 Lowes actually was selling some high quality lights, but by early December they were sold out and not getting any more in stock.
Amazon actually has some innovative products, some of the drop shipped from China lights are quite nice (and some of them are really nice), I have 2 sets of cool solar powered ones outside right now. One set works amazing, the other set only 5/6 lights work, but for $20 that isn't half bad.
 Given current manufacturing trends, it is sad that Christmas incandescent lights will probably outlive LED lights. I have some incandescent strands from my childhood that still work just fine, I have no confidence cheap LEDs will last more than a couple years.
> Amazon actually has some innovative products
If innovation is 72% of the products being immediately trash at delivery, count me out. It seems to me their real innovation is getting people to accept that an 72% failure rate is a good and acceptable thing.
Imagine if 72% of the apples you bought at the store were rotten by the time you came home. Imagine if 72% of the cars manufactured were scrap in the first 10 miles.
72% of the things you bought here were trash at delivery, and its being hailed as a good thing.
I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.
Please, quit supporting marketplaces that shovel trash on us.
A large nationwide grocery store chain carries yogurt covered raisins of such low quality that every time I have tried them over many years I have gotten nauseous.
That same store sells their own branded frozen fruit that is often so tasteless that it is useless at being "fruit".
One of America's largest brands of coconut milk is devoid of any coconut flavor, I have no idea why it is on store shelves.
Clothing and cheap electronics are two areas that will always be problematic. LED bulbs from physical retailers are also a crap shoot and frequently fail. I have purchased 2 identically labeled pairs of Levi jeans from a store and had them fit dramatically different.
Baby clothing sizes from well known brands are still a crapshoot, the reason for buying and returning through Amazon is because they make it easy, buying directly from Gap has the same sizing problem, but returns are more difficult.
And this is assuming you can even buy some items at all, I was trying to buy baby winter gloves and local stores have almost 0 choices, stores have maybe 1 style available.
Want something that isn't made out of plastic? Buying online, or at a local speciality store (for insane $$$) is the only choice.
Sure, my choices for clothing is more limited. But at least I've got the peace of mind I personally didn't send hundreds of articles of clothing to the landfill without ever actually wearing it. Its insane to me people seem perfectly fine with the idea of buying and throwing away so many clothes doing "returns".
The number of times I've bought clothes for my children and have it not fit after paying for it so far has been 0. I've messed up a few times on my own pants thinking the same size in the same pile would be roughly the same and been burned by it, but that's just led to me to force myself to always try before I buy that specific article of clothing.
But hey, feel free to keep throwing away 72% of what you buy thinking there's nothing that could be done. 72% failure rates are just what to expect in your life, true innovation being done by the sellers at Amazon.
Every time you click "return", think "send to landfill and get a refund". Think about how much junk you've just thrown away. Does this seem sustainable? Does it seem like a good thing to you?
Baby, or kids?
I have seen 18m outfits and 3t outfits from the same retailer that are almost the same size.
Baby clothes are annoying because you can't really try them on, so you may as well buy from a place that has easy returns.
And if there's a question of if it'll fit, buy a bit big and they'll wear them soon enough without immediately becoming landfill. You can do that in the store, you can't do that when you're buying online.
Better yet, buy used or get hand me downs from friends and family. Instead of sending even more stuff to the landfill, give things a second life. If a friend offers me a box of kids clothing, I'll rarely turn it down if its at least my kids sizes or larger. They'll fit eventually.
Once again, does sending most of what you buy immediately to a landfill seem sustainable to you? Does it seem good? If not, why are you supporting it?
While the cost of transportation has been wasted, can't the store discount it / sell it on Ebay ?
Disposal happens a lot. A huge chunk of the time that return you submit is just going into the trash. Remember that when you go to buy something you might not really need.
I don't use Amazon on principle, and still had to box and tag so far, but thanks for the warning !
if everybody abused return policies that way, the policies would simply be changed to disallow it for everybody. flexible policies only work because there's a trust that they won't be abused, and they'll only last as long as most people don't abuse them. the people who return everything they buy are just trying to squeeze the most out of the system before they ruin it for the rest of us, and banning them is a much better solution than disallowing returns.
> Gets people in-line REAL fast knowing they might end up blacklisted from Costco.
And the power dynamics at play.
In times of yore it would not occur to the shop keeper to offer a return policy or for the shopper to try and bilk him. The interaction would not be scripted.
2. It has been sometime since I have been happy with the service and there are ample alternatives domestically.
I won't lose sleep over Amazon's profit margins.
I haven't seen an example that wasn't obvious abuse.
Well, expressly tracked anyway. Not saying it isn't allowed, but if you do it enough you'll eventually get blacklisted. And rightfully so, since you're costing them money.
The profits maybe not be that big, but big enough to drive a skeleton team, make a small fortune. One item with $500 a day in revenue can let you make more money than a typical coder.
some of them are, but a lot are just dropshipping stuff from alibaba
What this is really about is highlighted in the study's post:
"This report highlights how Amazon’s scale has also given rise to new kinds of small businesses — ones optimized for Amazon"
As well as the lead in the study: "This report recounts a history of third-party (3P) sellers who have played a key role in building up Amazon’s retail business—and thus, Amazon as a whole—over the last two decades."
Sometimes the prices are insanely different and if I don't care about shipping times, I'll just get the same exact stuff from Ali for a lot less money. Other times, the prices aren't much different and I just get it from Amazon.
Some sort of marriage between the two systems would be nice. Ali's search engine is not as easy to use as Amazon's and it is a pain searching on both and comparing prices.
95% of the time, if the sellers name on Amazon is all uppercase, you can bet it is cheaper on Ali.
I still visit local stores for USB devices and batteries.
That looks like an opportunity for someone to build some specific tools...
I expect there are some already out there, but if the task still consumes that much time, i.e., is that much of a pain point, obviously there is opportunity still left on the table.
There's also a dire shortage of UK developers willing to do all the work, with no retainer, based purely on a shady prospect of a share of the profits at some distant time in the future.
This is the end result of every business that organizes itself as investor and capital owned instead of employee and worker owned. And it's what every startup is selling, that they will do this to their market and time and time again they prove it correct.
You enter a market, monopolize it, crush everyone within it and a handful of people take their giant bags of money and buy an island.
You just assume you'll be the one with the island instead of being crushed
I appreciate the irony of ordering it from Amazon, but do your local bookshop a favour and order it from them.
The main difference is that the brand is more visible on Allegro.