Amazon says Australia launch imminent ahead of spending season

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc is “really close” to opening in Australia, its country manager said on Monday, as the U.S. e-commerce juggernaut prepares to shake up an already-fragile brick-and-mortar retail sector in the world’s No. 12 economy.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, northern France, February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

While Amazon did not give an exact start date, the remarks from Rocco Braeuniger suggest the company will ship goods from its first Australian warehouse in time for the end-of-year holiday season, a moment seen by analysts as a tipping point for Australia’s staid retailers.

“Let me tell you we are getting really, really close,” a jeans-wearing Braeuniger told about 600 prospective product merchants at an open day on the Sydney waterfront, held to encourage merchants to sell on its website.

Since confirming plans to open in Australia in April, Amazon has signed up “many thousands” of sellers, added Braeuniger, who relocated from his native Germany for the role in August. [nL3N1HS07M]

Australians can already buy Amazon products from offshore, but having a warehouse locally cuts sometimes sizable international shipping costs, adding to pressure on retailers already struggling with the overheads that come from maintaining shopfronts and employing checkout staff.

Earlier this month, Australia’s top department store chain Myer Holdings Ltd cut its growth targets, citing weak trading conditions, while rival David Jones recently contributed to the first profit decline in eight years for its owner, South Africa’s Woolworths Holdings. [nL4N1N73T0] [nL8N1LA0T6]

In a sign of further headwinds for offline retail, Braeuniger said his $540 billion company planned to bring more services to Australia, from the outset, than it had previously flagged.

While Amazon said earlier that it would offer Australia its “marketplace” service, where retailers hire Amazon’s…

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