Amazon Fires the First Shot of Christmas Selling 2015

Christmas in July is typically limited to Hallmark’s new line of ornaments and QVC’s heat-of-summer Christmas shows. But Amazon has quietly lobbed the first bomb in the annual fight for Christmas selling dominance. The online retailer will hold a “Christmas-in-July” event that Amazon management promises will be better than Black Friday.

The e-commerce giant is calling its special sales day Prime Day, after its $99-a-year program that gives customers free two-day shipping and free access to streaming movies and TV shows. It will take place July 15.

Discounts will be rolled out as often as every 10 minutes, Amazon promised.

The catch? you have to be a Prime member to take part in the sale. (Many online tip sites note that you can sign-up for Prime and cancel within 30-days without paying any fees to take advantage of this one-time sale).

It’s Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos’ way of getting more people to sign up for Prime, the 10-year-old promotion in the nine countries that have the Prime loyalty program, including the US, UK, Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada and Austria.

Amazon doesn’t release the number of Prime members it has, but Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, estimates there are 35 million to 40 million in the US.

Amazon has famously jousted with WalMart and other traditional offline retailers for dominance during the holiday selling season. In recent years, Amazon’s Black Friday sales events have dwarfed the selling efforts of traditional retailers. By capturing new Prime customers now Amazon has an even bigger edge come Black Friday 2015. Amazon knows that if a customer signs up for Prime they will spend twice as much on Amazon.com than regular visitors to their site.

Walmart especially has take steps to counter Amazon’s selling efforts, moving last year to a membership model that provides free two-day shipping as well. Walmart continually puts price pressure on Amazon.

Given recent economic events worldwide this aggressive selling strategy signals an admission of yet another tough Christmas selling season in the months ahead. Analysts expect more aggressive moves by retailers of all kinds in the coming months.

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