office supplies colorful desktop

Amazon Launches Business Prime Shipping in The U.S. and Germany

Amazon announced today they are upping the game in business supplies by offering Business Prime Shipping in the U.S. and Germany. This service is marAmazon Prime logoketed at multi-user businesses at the midsize and enterprise levels.

Like the consumer version, Business Prime in the U.S. offers unlimited free 2-day shipping.

In the announcement, Amazon did not specify the benefits for German business customers, but presumably, it is next day shipping as that would match the consumer offering.

However, Amazon did provide more detail about this new service for U.S. customers. Amazon Business Prime in the U.S. comes in 3 flavors:

  • $499 for up to 10 users
  • $1,299 for up to 100 users
  • $10,099 for over 100 users

Once a business customer selects the desired membership, all users on the account will receive an email notifying them that Business Prime Shipping has been enabled.

New users added to an existing Amazon Business account with Business Prime Shipping will be automatically enrolled in this membership.

“Business Prime Shipping combines the wide selection of products available to Amazon Business customers, with the speed and convenience that customers have come to know and love from Amazon Prime.
We are excited to introduce a shipping program designed to meet the needs of businesses and will continue to innovate on behalf of customers to make business purchasing even easier.”

Greg Greeley, Vice President of Amazon Prime

Office Supply Chains Under Pressure

Office supply big box stores are consolidating in the United States. This group was once a booming and growing business segment, but has seen consolidation and store reductions.

During the 90s, Staples, Office Depot, and OfficeMax were growing and building stores. In some cases, the chains acquired other regional chains to supplement missing markets.

Staples even purchased Quill corporation in 1998, the largest office supplies mail order firm in the U.S. and still responsible for the most significant U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding cross-state sales tax.

In 1996, there was the first attempt at consolidation between Office Depot and Staples, but the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) nixed the merger as OfficeMax had no presence in some of the Office Depot and Staples markets.

staples paper carton
Image: Staples

With the transformation from a paper world to a digital world, office supplies, which often included ink, toner, ribbons, paper, etc. started to see a decline in these highly profitable products.

Office Depot and OfficeMax merged in 2013, and there was another attempt by Staples and Office Depot (now owning OfficeMax) to merge in 2015, but again that was blocked by the FTC.

To right-size the business, both Office Depot and Staples continue to close stores.

But with a continuing diminishing office supplies consumable market and increased competition from Amazon, we will likely see more store closures from the big box chains.

In an irony of sorts, the pressure Amazon continues to place on the office supply chains may help small businesses. 20+ years ago, the big box chains were blamed for the elimination of the small owner operated office supply store next door.

Now the small business owner may get their chance at a little bit of a revenge!

Amazon Business as an Opportunity

For small businesses selling office supply products, Amazon Business may provide a great equalizer. As more enterprise customers join the new program, the demand for office products will rise and the big box stores will lose more sales.

Amazon wants third-party sellers to sell office supplies. You may not be able to compete with commodity items such pens and pencils, but there are niche segments in office supplies that could be very profitable on Amazon.

And this new service from Amazon is going to attract volume buyers, so the opportunity to build sales in office products is now!

What do you think about Amazon expanding Prime membership to mid-level and enterprise customers? Do you see an opportunity for sales? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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