Amazon says 'Prime Day' sales jump, plans to make it an annual event

Amazon says its “Prime Day” sale led to a sales surge and “hundreds of thousands” of new signups for its $99 annual Prime loyalty program. The company said it plans to make the sale an annual event.

Tied to its 20th anniversary, Amazon promoted Wednesday’s sale for weeks by saying there would be more deals than during the busy winter holiday shopping season. Some shoppers took to social media and elsewhere to complain about the types of sales they were seeing and their limited nature.

Nonetheless, Amazon said Thursday that in the U.S. and nine countries around the world that offer the Prime program, shoppers ordered 398 items per second, surpassing the rate of ordering on Black Friday, the busy shopping day after Thanksgiving. It said worldwide order growth more than quadrupled over the same day last year, which is typically a sluggish sales day, and rose 18 per cent more than Black Friday 2014.

“Going into this, we weren’t sure whether Prime Day would be a one-time thing or if it would become an annual event,” said Greg Greeley, Amazon Prime vice-president. “After yesterday’s results, we’ll definitely be doing this again.”

In the U.S., TVs, Bose headphones, Rubbermaid storage sets, pressure cookers, Roomba vacuum cleaning robots, the unrated Blu-ray version of “50 Shades of Grey” and Megular microfiber towels were top sellers. Abroad, a Blu-ray trilogy of “Lord of the Rings” and a Lenovo notebook computer were popular.

ChannelAdvisor, which tracks sales by third-party sellers on Amazon, said sales jumped 93 per cent on Wednesday compared with a year ago in the U.S. and rose 53 per cent in Europe. It said sellers achieved 97 per cent of the total amount of sales generated on Black Friday and 60 per cent of the sales volume on Cyber Monday.

The sale spurred other retailers to try “Christmas in July”-type sales as well, most notably Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The world’s largest retailer, which discounted about 2,000 items on Wednesday, said that the last three days have been some of its best ever for online orders, but did not give specifics. It noted that Wednesday was the highest day of the year for same-day pickup at its stores, with orders increasing triple digits over the same day last year. That service allows shoppers to order online and then pick their purchases up at the store the same day. Among the top-selling items Wednesday were an Apple iPad Air 2 for $399.99 and $12.35 for Anna and Kristoff dolls from Disney’s “Frozen.”

Shares of Inc. rose $14.29, or 3.1 per cent, to close at $475.48 on Thursday. They have risen more than 33 per cent over the past year.