Amazon lifts the lid on Prime membership count, and it’s big

Amazon revealed on Thursday, January 30, that it now has 150 million Prime members globally.

The figure marks an increase of 50 million sign-ups since April 2018, though the leap can be partly attributed to the service launching in Brazil in September 2019, which Amazon says is now its fastest-growing market.

The e-commerce behemoth has been investing heavily in recent years to improve its $119-a-year Prime service, which besides free and fast delivery also offers access to a library of streaming movie and TV content, along with music tracks and e-books. With growing pressure from other major retailers, Amazon has been working to replace free two-day shipping with a free one-day option to get orders to Prime members even more quickly. Members in 2,000 American cities and towns also have free access to grocery delivery from AmazonFresh and Whole Foods after the company scrapped an extra $15 monthly fee in October 2019.

Announcing its latest set of financial figures this week, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos said that the number of items delivered to U.S. customers via Prime’s free one-day and same-day delivery “more than quadrupled this quarter compared to last year.”

In a press release bursting with big numbers (the word “billion” appears 35 times, and “million” 28 times), Amazon revealed that its global operation raked in $87.4 billion worth of sales in the fourth quarter of 2019, leading to profits of $3.3 billion, the latter slightly up from the same period a year earlier.

Bezos said, “Prime membership continues to get better for customers year after year. And customers are responding — more people joined Prime this quarter than ever before, and we now have over 150 million paid Prime members around the world.”

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Amazon, with the company’s working practices and global shipping operation coming under increasing scrutiny.

Just last month, a 300-strong group called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice spoke out against what it sees as an inadequate response by Amazon to the climate crisis. The company insists it’s working to make its operation greener with efforts that include a pledge to slash its carbon footprint through investments in initiatives such as recycling programs, renewable energy projects, and the planned deployment of electric-powered delivery vehicles.

Sporadic strikes across its network of fulfillment centers have also hit Amazon, with some employees complaining of harsh working conditions that include unreasonable productivity quotas, workplace health hazards, and lack of benefits. Amazon has refuted the claims, describing itself as a “fair and responsible employer.”

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