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Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 15:33 GMT
Amazon's fight for dominance
amazon front page
The site was the most popular Christmas online retailer
Leading online retailer Amazon may be the most widely visited retail website in the UK, but its new boss is working hard to retain its top spot in an industry which is still only in its infancy.

The UK business, which was launched in October 1998, is now trading at the rate of 100m a year.

Its sales figures jumped 430% in the final quarter of last year compared with the same period in 1998.
steve frazier
Steve Frazier: kept busy recruiting for a fast-growing site
The site, amazon.co.uk, has attracted more than a million customers.

Recently appointed managing director Steve Frazier told BBC News Online that the company had been able to learn from its parent US company's mistakes and successes.

But he said he did not underestimate the competition which had also been able to learn from those mistakes.

Amazon says Mr Frazier has come to the company with fresh ideas and a strong background in developing new retailing businesses.

He previously worked for a major US footwear retailer, Payless Shoesource, based in Kansas, where he led teams that developed the company's internet business and its first international market.

New features

He is busy planning the next stage in the company's development, building on its success to date.

The company plans to offer a greater range of products on its UK site.

Amazon.co.uk has already imported the 'zshop' feature from its US parent company - a system whereby it allows other traders to sell their goods direct to the public via its site.

It has also followed its lead with the introduction of online auctions.

Mr Frazier said this had been very successful because it was the type of feature that made shopping on the internet more fun.

He may think twice about one of amazon.com's more controversial features which was introduced last summer.

"Purchase circles", which detail the most popular books among employees of certain companies or cities, etc were initially criticised for raising privacy concerns.

However, Mr Frazier told BBC News Online that he believed the initial "misunderstanding" had been cleared up and the feature was now a success.

Vigorous growth

Expansion continues to be "vigorous" at the UK site, with much of the new MD's time spent recruiting.

There are no sign of any impending job losses such as the 150 announced by its parent company last month.

He said any fast-moving business should be aware of its structure and costs and the jobs cuts at amazon.com were a natural reassessment of the business which any company should undertake periodically.

Security fears

Mr Frazier said the internet had seen phenomenal growth in the UK recently and it was expected to take off all over Europe.

One of the areas cited as possibly holding back that growth has been the issue of security, with customers proving unwilling to give credit card details and card companies unwilling to allow their cards to be used for internet transactions because of fear of hackers.

Mr Frazier said he saw such fears as a natural reaction in the early development of internet retailing - fears which were no doubt felt at the same stage of its development in the US.

However, once customers realised that it was a safe and secure way of shopping, he said, those fears would disappear.

Amazon.co.uk had not experienced major problems in this area, he added.

Hacker fears

Recent scares about computer hackers, who have shut down high profile websites, including amazon.com last week, have not affected trade, Mr Frazier said.

Nor does he expect the attacks to have any significant bearing on the development of internet retailing.

Mr Frazier said the majority had too much at stake in making the internet a success to allow a tiny majority to derail its development.

He declined to comment on the company's strategy for preventing such attacks.

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See also:

05 Jan 00 | Business
Amazon sales (& losses) rocket
29 Jan 00 | Business
Amazon cuts jobs
02 Feb 00 | Business
Amazon heads for profit amid loss
27 Aug 99 | The Company File
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