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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifies remotely during a House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifies remotely during a House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifies remotely during a House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP)

Emily Venezky
By Emily Venezky August 6, 2020

Bezos’ statistics ignore Amazon’s monopoly of U.S. e-commerce and growing international revenue

If Your Time is short

  • Bezos’ statistics don’t accurately portray how Amazon is cornering the growing industry of U.S. e-commerce retail and how much Amazon is profiting internationally.

  • Amazon accounts for the largest portion of U.S. e-commerce retail sales by a large margin and had the second-highest revenue of any retailer internationally in 2018.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos opened his recent remarks to Congress with a claim that Amazon is in an "extraordinarily large and competitive" market, not only in the U.S. but internationally. 

Bezos cited statistics to make his point, highlighting how "Amazon accounts for less than 1% of the $25 trillion global retail market, and less than 4% of U.S. retail."

The figures don’t tell the whole story. They include a much larger pool of retailers than Amazon is directly competing with and minimize how large Amazon’s sales are compared to the rest of worldwide retail.

We reached out to Amazon’s press team to ask for Bezos’ sources for the statistics he mentioned but they didn’t respond.

On a global scale, figures show Amazon made up about 1.12% of international retail sales in 2019, which is just over 1%. According to a June 2019 report from eMarketer, total international retail sales were projected to be $25 trillion by the end of 2019. In Amazon’s last 2019 quarterly report, they announced that they had made $280.5 billion in sales during the 2019 fiscal year. 

For U.S. retail, Amazon does make up less than 4% of total sales, according to eMarketer. In 2019, Amazon accounted for 38.7% of U.S. e-commerce retail sales alone, and e-commerce retail sales accounted for 11.3% of the U.S. retail market by the end of 2019.

Just looking at these statistics, Amazon looks like a tiny company competing in an extremely large market. However, comparing Amazon to the entire retail market is problematic. The U.S. Census Bureau includes over fifty industries in their data for the retail market, including car dealers, gas stations, full service restaurants, and liquor stores.

Amazon is not directly competing with most of the industries in the U.S. retail market, but it is responsible for the largest portion — 38.7% — of total e-commerce retail sales.

Its largest competitor was Walmart, with 5.3% of sales. 

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This gap isn’t new, in 2018 Amazon made up 47% of e-commerce retail sales and the second-ranked e-commerce company was eBay, with 6.1% of sales.

Amazon is dominating the U.S. e-commerce retail market, which is also accounting for a growing share of the U.S. retail industry. The e-commerce market rose from 4.2% of the U.S. retail market in 2010 to 11.8% of the market in 2020. 

Internationally, when we look at the entire world of retail (be it online or not), Amazon had the second-highest revenue of any retail seller in 2018, behind Walmart, which made $517.7 billion, according to the Kantar Group. In 2018, Walmart accounted for only 2.07% of international retail sales, despite having the most revenue from retail in the world.

Our ruling

Bezos said Amazon is participating in a market that is "extraordinarily large and competitive. Amazon accounts for less than 1% of the $25 trillion global retail market, and less than 4% of US retail."

Bezos cited those figures in an effort to portray Amazon as a less powerful force on the retail market than some may assume. These figures are misleading and don’t tell the full story. 

In the most comparable category — U.S. e-commerce — Amazon easily outdistances all of its competitors, and on the international front, it is the second-most profitable company in the world when it comes to all retail. Even the retail company making the most revenue internationally, Walmart, doesn’t account for a large percentage of sales in the international market.

We rate this claim Half True.

Correction (Aug. 10, 2020): In 2018 Walmart made $517.7 billion in global retail sales, according to the Kantar Group. An earlier version of this story had an incorrect figure.

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More by Emily Venezky

Bezos’ statistics ignore Amazon’s monopoly of U.S. e-commerce and growing international revenue

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