Company is far behind competitors but vows to grow
A global trade giant — second only to Walmart, the world’s largest retailer — Amazon has invested over the last two years in Brazil to expand its market share. Since 2020, the company has increased the number of distribution centers in Brazil to 12 from one, with sizes between 30,000 and 50,000 square meters. Logistics, according to specialists, is gaining more importance in retail, in view of a consumer who wants to receive products in a shorter and shorter time.
Even with the expansion, the number of Amazon units is still smaller than that of competitors, which have up to 30 centers, as is the case of Via (owner of Casas Bahia and Ponto chains). Americanas S.A. (Lojas Americanas and B2W Digital) has 25 distribution centers, while Magazine Luiza totals 24 and Mercado Libre has 10.
Many retailers also bet on the so-called “cross-docking” model — a smaller warehouse for redirecting deliveries within the chain itself, like a warehouse — or even in the use of brick-and-mortar stores as small distribution hubs, not only for their own products but also for third-party sellers, case of Magazine Luiza.
Unlike the world market, where it is the vice-leader, Amazon’s performance in Brazil is still far behind that of its rivals, according to market estimates. The Brazilian Society of Retail and Consumption (SBVC) ranking of the largest online marketplaces shows Amazon in sixth place, with R$3.832 billion in goods sold in 2021. The figure does not include third-party sales. If these other sales are considered, the estimated number rises to R$10 billion, according to consulting firm Varese Retail.
Still, those numbers are much lower than the first four in the ranking: Mercado Libre (R$68 billion), Americanas S.A. (R$42.2 billion), Magazine Luiza (R$39.7 billion) and Via (R$26.4 billion).
Ricardo Pagani — Foto: Divulgação
The leader of Amazon’s operations in Brazil, Ricardo Pagani, does not reveal investment or revenue figures but says that “important investments” have been made and that the company is just at the beginning of its operations in Brazil. Although it arrived in 2012, initially selling only digital books and Kindle e-readers, the expansion of the offer of products and categories was gradual. The hard-copy books began to be sold in 2014, then came the items in partnership with third parties (sellers) and only in 2019 Amazon began to acquire products for resale and sell devices such as Alexa. Currently, there is a variety of 50 million products available to customers, in 30 categories.
“As in other markets, Amazon is in Brazil with a long-term vision. We are building an operation in a sustained way. These are important investments made now, initially with a return of investment horizon of five to 10 years,” he said. Mr. Pagani downplayed the competition for leadership in Brazil and reinforced that it is possible to evaluate the position of each competitor in different categories. In the case of books sold through the online channel, for example, Amazon is the leader.
The investments in distribution centers, according to the executive, were planned before Covid-19 hit in Brazil but were accelerated during the pandemic.
Five of the 12 centers are in the city of Cajamar, about 40 kilometers from São Paulo, two in Cabo de Santo Agostinho (Pernambuco), one in Nova Santa Rita (Rio Grande do Sul), one in São João de Meriti (Rio de Janeiro), one in Santa Maria (Federal District), one in Betim (Minas Gerais) and the other in Itaitinga (Ceará). Each one is named after the nearest airport.
Amazon intends to continue investing in new distribution centers. The idea is also to expand the number of delivery stations, which today are five: (three in São Paulo, besides Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais). The units are responsible for the so-called “last mile,” which is the final step for the consumer, and operate in certain situations.
Logistics, says the founder and director of 360Varejo, Luiz Claudio Dias de Melo, is the next big thing, and requires high investments. A sign of Amazon’s concern with deliveries, according to him, is the recent purchase of 10% of Total Express, a logistics and distribution company.
But Amazon arrived later in this retail offensive to expand distribution centers in Brazil, notes Mr. Melo, who says the company faces “a minefield.” While it dominates the U.S. market, in Brazil it faces competitors that are bigger and ahead in terms of logistic structure: “This movement that Amazon is doing is late. The market is very busy and mined. The investments of the large operators have been happening for years”, he said.
The assessment of the late arrival is shared by the partner and founder of the consultancy Varese Retail, Alberto Serrentino, who points out an aggressive escalation of the retailer founded by Jeff Bezos. “Amazon started later, it is structuring itself, but it has been climbing very aggressively, with heavy investments, with many fulfillment centers,” says Mr. Serrentino. He refers to centers that not only receive and ship goods, but also provide other services to third parties that use its platform. The distribution centers that Amazon is setting up in the country “will provide the infrastructure and the muscle to improve the level of service and the ability to provide logistics services to sellers, which is their stronghold in the United States.”
One of the ways for the company to expand the customer base in Brazil, says Mr. Serrentino, is the Prime program, which provides free delivery for a range of products, regardless of value, and Prime Video, which is the streaming service.
Asked to comment on Amazon’s growth in Brazil, Mercado Libre, Americanas, Magazine Luiza and Via did not immediately reply, but gave indicators about the delivery times, one of the parameters in the competition for consumers.
According to the head of Logistics at Via, Fernando Gasparini, more than 15% of the company’s deliveries are currently made on the same day of purchase and more than 40% of the products arrive within 24 hours. As for Americanas S.A., 61.2% of deliveries are made within 24 hours, and 40% are made in just three hours, according to data from the second quarter of the year.
Magazine Luiza says 80% of the orders for its own products (that is, not considering the sellers) are delivered within 48 hours, and a “significant” portion within 24 hours.
Amazon itself does not disclose those figures but reveals that, through Amazon Prime, free shipping within one day is in 100 cities, and two-day shipping is in more than 1,000 cities.
*By Lucianne Carneiro — São João do Meriti, Rio de Janeiro
Source: Valor International