Amazon looms over retail sector as US earnings season winds down

The e-commerce titan has been mentioned about 165 times on conference calls of S&P 1500 companies since the start of July. (Image: Reuters)

Second-quarter reports from US companies slowed to a trickle this week, but Inc continues to pop up as a topic on corporate conference calls. The e-commerce titan has been mentioned about 165 times on conference calls of S&P 1500 companies since the start of July, according to a Reuters review of transcripts. That is more than 10 percent of all calls over that time, more than twice as many mentions as Google or its parent Alphabet and three times as many as Apple. Not all the mentions indicate worry about Amazon’s presence, with some companies talking up partnerships with Amazon, for example. But the preponderance of mentions indicates the company’s broad reach.

Following are a few excerpted comments from this week, during which Amazon was mentioned on 11 of about 30 S&P 1500 earnings calls, including responses by executives to questions from analysts. The week’s earnings calendar was dominated by retailers and consumer brand makers, sectors that have long felt the encroachment of Amazon.

The excerpts are edited for length so they may not include the company’s complete comments or response to a question: * Foot Locker CEO Richard Johnson in initial comments on the athletic retailer’s Aug. 18 conference call:

“At the premium end of the market, most of our customers don’t want to just buy a specific product at the end of spring. They want that product have a connection to an experience that are meaningful and wants to participate in.

For that reason, we do not believe our vendors selling product directly on Amazon is an imminent threat. There is no indication that any of our vendors intend to sell premium athletic product, $100 plus interest that we offer directly via that sort of the submission channel. For lower price, largely undifferentiated product, sure, Amazon and other online sales channels are increasing their share of the supermarket.

However, we believe our vendors agree with us that consistently selling their premium aspirational product requires great storytelling, great relevance to the influences on our customers lives as well as engaging digital and in-store experience.”

* Joshua Schulman, President and CEO of the Coach Brand, responding to question on the handbag maker’s Aug. 15 call about digital priorities and how it will stand in the face of Amazon:

“In terms of Amazon, for the time being, we don’t see that as a true luxury play and where many of our core competitors play. And we’re more excited about engaging directly with our customers through our own digital channels and those of our premium wholesale customers.”

* Dennis Nelson, CEO of Buckle on the apparel retailer’s Aug. 17 call when asked about selling Buckle products on Amazon:

“We find the expense of selling on Amazon that we don’t feel is necessary. And we feel that exclusive product in our stores and in our online, when the guests are familiar with it, will drive the business without Amazon. So at this time, we have no plans to work with them.”

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