Amazon has more than 100 million paid Prime members globally, CEO Jeff Bezos wrote in a letter to shareholders submitted Wednesday to the Securities and Exchange Commission, finally unveiling a statistic that analysts have been chasing for years.
The letter also noted that Amazon shipped more than 5 billion items through Prime globally, and more new members joined than in any previous year. It was also the company’s best yet for hardware sales, showing "tens of millions of Echo devices, and Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick with Alexa" as best-selling products.
Amazon has also "begun the technical work" to bring Prime benefits to Whole Foods shoppers.
Until now, Bezos hasn't seen fit to brag about the size of the company's Prime membership, leaving various number crunchers to guess its extent and impact.
In October, a report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners pegged the number at 90 million just in the U.S. But Moody's Investors Service this summer downplayed a previous 85 million estimate from the research firm. Analysts called that estimate "seriously overstated," "highly improbable" and made "in the absence of any real guidance from the company itself." Moody’s guess last summer, based on an evaluation of demographic data, was closer to 50 million U.S. (not global) Prime members, well below Costco’s of 86.7 million members.
In an email to Retail Dive Thursday, Moody's Lead Retail Analyst Charlie O'Shea said the official number from Amazon "reflects the power of the program, and validates the continuing substantial investments on various fronts to both attract and maintain this important core base."
In his letter, Bezos did more than touch on Prime. He also spent a fair amount of space philosophizing about teamwork, vision and high standards. That included a story about a friend who hired a handstand coach in order to perfect a handstand lasting for more than a few seconds, to illustrate that "unrealistic beliefs on scope – often hidden and undiscussed – kill high standards."
Bezos also touched on the growth of several big segments, including Amazon Fashion. He did not offer sales numbers of the company's dozens of new private brands or how many customers are using its first fashion-oriented Prime benefit, the try-before-you-buy service Prime Wardrobe, except to say that Amazon Fashion "has become the destination for tens of millions of customers."
The letter also offered some insight into the company's operations in India, where both Amazon and Walmart are said to be mulling an acquisition of homegrown e-tailer Flipkart. Amazon is the fastest growing marketplace in India, and the most visited site on both desktop and mobile, Bezos said, citing comScore and SimilarWeb, also noting that the Amazon was the most downloaded shopping app in India last year, according to App Annie. Prime's selection in India now includes more than 40 million local products from third-party sellers, according to the letter.