Today in Amazon.com’s shareholders meeting, which was available online as a live webcast, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos answered questions on topics like sales tax and diapers while sidestepping queries about the Kindle. Here’s the info shareholders got out of him:
— Increase in sales: As previously reported, Amazon had $34.2 billion in sales last year, a 40 percent increase over the previous year. Thirty percent of the items on Amazon are sold by third parties.
— Amazon’s e-book approach: When a shareholder asked about Amazon’s short- and intermediate-term Kindle strategies and “shortcomings in [Kindle] offerings,” Bezos dodged the question: “Our approach to electronic books and the Kindle is very straightforward. We want to have the best purpose-built e-reader, the best e-bookstore, and the best ecosystem so you can read where you want to.” He added, “We’re very simple-minded about this. It seems like what our customers would want.” Some customers might also want to see some sales figures for the Kindle, but none were forthcoming, nor was any other new data on the Kindle or e-reading.
— Where Amazon currently operates: Here’s a chart showing the geographies and categories Amazon currently operates in. Red = new since last year. Note the expansion in Italy and the relative lack of offerings in Canada:
— Quidsi acquisition: On Amazon’s acquisition of Quidsi last year, Besos said, “There’s good traction in our consumables business…we sell a lot of diapers.”
— AmazonFresh: We learned a little more about AmazonFresh, a pilot program offering same-day or next-day delivery program for groceries and other products, currently available only in the Seattle area. “We’re still tinkering with the business to try to make the economics acceptable,” Bezos said. “It’s an expensive service to provide.”
— ‘Frustration-free’ packaging: Amazon is seeing success with its “frustration-free” packaging program, which eliminates clamshells and twist ties, because “we can separate physical packaging of the item from merchandising and we don’t have to worry about shoplifting….E-commerce is now big enough that manufacturers are seeing it’s worth their while to have two different packaging types, one for the in-store environment and one for the online environment.” Amazon shipped 4 million products in frustration-free packaging in 2010 (up from 250,000 in 2008).
— The future of mobile: In 10 years, Bezos predicts, “we will see way better mobile devices than we have today. The mobile browsing experience is still pretty marginal. That is going to change.” He said most Amazon customers now shop from laptops or desktop computers, but “people have a different posture with tablets. People leaning back on their sofas, buying things from Amazon, is another tailwind for our business that I’m very excited about.”
— Sales tax: On the sales tax issue, Bezos said, “Ten years from now, I believe we’ll have the Simplified Sales Tax Initiative passed.” Amazon already collects sales tax or its equivalent (the VAT) in more than half the geographies where it does business.”
— Amazon’s entry into fashion: Private fashion sales site MyHabit.com, which Amazon launched last month, includes video to show how clothes hang and drape when a model is moving, along with the size of the clothing the model is wearing with her height and measurements.
— Kindle’s greenhouse gas emissions: Shareholders will be voting on a motion that would require Amazon to disclose more information about the Kindle’s greenhouse gas emissions.