Amazon Expands Japanese Presence

Seven months after launching a Japanese-language book-selling site, Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) said Wednesday the site is adding music, video and DVD product lines, with more offerings to come before the end of the year.

The expanded product lines will bring several of the features for which the original Amazon site is known, including customer product reviews and editorial content. The new products include 360,000 CD titles, 10,000 DVDs and 66,000 videos.

“The continuing addition of new products to all four of our international sites is an important part of Amazon.com’s drive to profitability,” Amazon senior vice president and general manager of international sales Diego Piacentini said.

In addition to the Japanese site and its original U.S. online store, Seattle, Washington-based Amazon operates sites in the UK, Germany and France.

Worldwide Push

Piacentini noted that electronics products were added to the UK site in May, while software and video games were introduced on the French site in April. All four sites will see additional product lines before the end of the year, Amazon said.

Before launching in Japan in November, Amazon chief executive officer and founder Jeff Bezos said the e-tailer already had 200,000 Japanese customers ordering US$34 million a year worth of products from its U.S. site.

Since then, Bezos said, Amazon has doubled its regular customer base in Japan to 400,000, quickly becoming the top online retailer in the country — besting several Japanese sites as well as the properties of Bertelsmann, which arrived in Japan several months before Amazon.

No Discounts

Though it debuted with a free shipping offer, Amazon has grabbed its share of the market without the benefit of steep discounts on the more than 1 million Japanese-language titles in its catalog. Japanese law limits discounts on books published within the country.

At a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, Bezos told reporters he was “astonished” at the response from Japanese consumers so far.

However, he also admitted that Amazon’s Japanese division was not as close to profitability as the company itself, which executives have indicated could post its first operating profit before the end of the year.

Worthwhile Investment

Japan, Bezos said, is worthy of an investment phase like the one the U.S. saw before the year 2000.

In fact, Japan was responsible for as much as 70 percent of the e-commerce sales in the Asia-Pacific region during 2000, according to an eMarketer report released earlier this year. Analysts expect explosive growth for business-to-consumer (B2C) sales in the region in coming years, with mobile e-commerce also growing faster than in other parts of the world.

The Japanese e-commerce environment got a boost last year from the Japanese government, which pledged to streamline regulation of the Internet in a bid to catch up to more wired nations.

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