Amazon.co.uk’s grocery launch last July ruffled feathers amongst some suppliers, who complained at the time about low volume sales, the fulfillment model, consumer confusion and limited marketing. So what’s the consensus nine months on?
One Brighton-based ethnic foods producer, who didn't wish to be named, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “It doesn’t work brilliantly. We get a steady trickle of sales coming from it, mainly around Christmas, which was good but not quite what it was cracked up to be at all.
So much hype…
“All these things start off with so much hype to justify the charges that they make at the beginning and it all fizzles out a bit and you never hear from them again. There’s nobody to talk to – you don’t get an account handler or anything like that.
“We get a couple of orders most days, I think. We’ll review it when the year’s up and decide whether we’ve made any money. The thing with most websites is it takes so long for them to kick in properly and for people to realise you’re there.”
He said there was sometimes a knock-on effect of people seeing products on a third party website and then following links to the manufacturer’s own site to make orders. “But I’ve certainly never noticed much traffic coming to us from Amazon,” he added.
Another speciality foods manufacturer, who wished to remain unnamed, said he had mixed feelings on the site. “For us it’s working – the volumes aren’t huge and it was a bit tricky to set up, but once it is it’s easy to add things, etc.”
One problem he did identify was the search facility. “Inputing books, CDs you get exactly what you want, whereas if you type in, say, ‘olive oil’ you get a plethora of producers [a FoodManufacture.co.uk search on these lines even turned up olive-oil ear wax remover].”
“But we’re delighted with it, and get orders every day. In the first week we started it (around Christmas) our md said we didn’t want to get involved with this. But I said to him ‘look this is Amazon, they won’t fail with this, they succeeded in the States.”
He also noted the brand-building potential Amazon offers: “For the deli sector there are great advantages. We send out press releases and PR, say ‘we’re sold through a few key shops in London, our website, and Amazon.co.uk,’ which is a huge boost.”
However, he did note the obvious thorny issue for online food sales: “What’s still bizarre is that people will pay £2.95 for one of our products and £4.95 delivery – but I guess that’s the nature of the internet, people don’t always look at postage prices.”
A third cheese producer, who also wished to remain anonymous, noted the seasonal appeal of Amazon’s grocery offering, especially for specialist foods: “Christmas was really good, we saw a lot of business, and most of the stuff we sell through there now tends to be gift-oriented,” he said.
He added that he thought high delivery prices were more of an issue for low-cost products, with consumers prepared to pay more for pricier gifts when delivery charges were a “reasaonable percentage of the total price”.