- Now that Donald Trump has been elected president, Amazon and its founder/CEO Jeff Bezos could be in line for formal antitrust questions from the federal government, according to reports.
- Recode reprinted comments Trump made earlier this year when he felt he was being unfairly treated by The Washington Post, which Bezos owns. Trump had said Bezos used his media property as political leverage so that Amazon doesn’t “get sued for monopolistic tendencies that have led to the destruction of department stores and the retail industry.”
- Bezos "thinks I'll go after him for antitrust," Trump added. "Because he's got a huge antitrust problem because he's controlling so much, Amazon is controlling so much of what they are doing."
Bezos didn't blink as Trump made his comments in recent months, and called the then-presidential candidate out for threatening retribution against media coverage rather than accepting it as part of the democratic process and the media's right to free speech. However, Amazon has declined additional comment following Trump's election victory Tuesday.
It's true that Amazon's actions in a number of areas have quickly reshaped the retail industry in ways that have had profoundly negative impacts on traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. But that's called competition, and Amazon's moves also set off waves of innovation throughout retail that might otherwise not have come about on their own.
It's also true that Amazon took advantage of a lack of sales taxes on e-commerce transactions. Brick-and-mortar retailers could have joined Amazon sooner in that regard, but they didn't know at that point how to get online ventures off the ground. Now tax regulation is catching up with e-commerce.
Maybe a lot of retailers would have liked to see Amazon investigated for antitrust concerns long ago when the company was a bit more of an outsider kicking around in their sandbox, but now Amazon is as much a part of the retail establishment as any of them.
It's hard to imagine what an Amazon break-up would look like if it came to that, but it likely would make things more difficult for Amazon customers, disrupting the positive customer experience they have come to know from Amazon. That in turn could dampen shopper enthusiasm throughout retail, as many shoppers often use Amazon as a starting point for researching potential purchases. That latter trend no doubt has made it harder for some retailers to get their share of sales traffic, but it also has forced them to study and invest in technologies and strategies, such as personalization, to improve their own customer experiences.
The retail industry is on pins and needles about a Trump presidency, partly encouraged about potential tax reforms, but also already more than a little anxious about the potential the Trump election victory to put a damper on what many have been predicting will be a holiday season full of healthy spending. Imagine what the coming years will be like if Trump decides to go to war with retail's biggest growth engine.
It will be interesting to see how long Bezos remains quiet. In his own inimitable way, he may now be busying himself with developing a game plan of such typically Amazonian aggressiveness and imagination that he can outwit any antitrust army Trump sends to his doorstep. If he can't hold off Trump's antitrust forces, whatever plays out could rock retail for years to come.