Amazon is quietly upending a $19 billion business, and it's terrible news for Target and Bed Bath & Beyond

  • Amazon has quietly become a huge player in wedding registries.
  • Buying wedding gifts is a big business for retailers. Americans spend about $19 billion on registries every year, according to Loop Capital.
  • Amazon has added some big perks for couples registering with the e-commerce site.
  • Amazon has become the "'go-to' retailer" for millennials tying the knot, Loop Capital's Anthony Chukumba said in a note to investors.

Millennials seem to go to Amazon for everything these days — even wedding registries.

Eschewing classics like department stores, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Williams-Sonoma, more millennials getting ready to tie the knot are signing up for Amazon's wedding-registry service.

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Where Amazon may build its HQ2
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Where Amazon may build its HQ2

DC is near the the "bull's-eye of America's internet." 

Northern Virginia is attractive for tech firms due to its proximity to Data Center Alley, where 70% of the United States' internet traffic flows through. That means more efficiency and reliability, as well as cheaper power, according to Business Insider's Hayley Peterson.

Amazon could be looking at a specific spot right in the center, on the border of Loudoun and Fairfax counties, near Washington Dulles Airport and the DC Metro, for its new headquarters.

It's also close to where Amazon is planning a 600,000-square-foot data-center campus as well as its new Herndon, Virginia Amazon Web Services office. 

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An article on a local news site in Arlington, Virginia, blew up overnight, and the site says the views came mostly from what appears to be an internal Amazon.com page. 

In February, a local news site called ARLnow.com said it saw an unusual spike in traffic to an article from December titled "County Wins Top Environmental Award from US Green Building Council" explaining how Arlington County was the first in the US to be selected for an environmental award.

The site says the story saw a spike of about 6,000 pageviews, mostly referred from what it identified as an internal Amazon.com page.

ARLnow.com speculated that the page was linked closely with Amazon's search for the city for its second headquarters, dubbed HQ2, and that the traffic spike indicated Arlington was being considered seriously. 

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Amazon has drastically increased its lobbying efforts. 

Amazon has rapidly expanded its Washington lobbying efforts in the past five years, according to Bloomberg.

The company has increased its lobbying spending by more than 400% over that time. It has also widely expanded both the number of issues and the number of entities it lobbies, according to Bloomberg. To do this, it has nearly doubled the number of lobbyists it employs.

The company is reportedly fighting to be seen as a job creator rather than a job taker. It's working to have more influence in Washington as it expands and moves rapidly into areas like drone aviation, cloud computing, and grocery.

In 2015, Amazon hired Jay Carney — the former press secretary under President Barack Obama — to oversee corporate affairs, and he now oversees the Washington policy office, which opened in 2014.

These moves are also powerful signifiers of a desire to have more influence in Washington. One way Amazon could have more influence is by relocating some of its corporate operations in or near the city. It could do that with its HQ2 project, which promises to bring significant investment to the chosen area. 

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Three of the 20 remaining HQ2 contenders are in the DC metro area. 

Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, which border Washington, DC, are the only proposals under consideration that are not from a major city.

Additionally, Washington is the only metro area with three separate locations appearing on the short list.

That may indicate that Amazon has selected the area as the most desirable for HQ2.

The battle among the three locations is likely to be the fiercest, as they won't be able to point to the region as a differentiating factor and must throw in their best incentives. No other locations on the company's list are as close to one another. 

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos already owns the district's largest home.  

In 2017, The Washington Post revealed that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was the buyer of two mansions in the Kalorama section of Washington.

The property totals 27,000 square feet, and Bezos reportedly intends to turn it into a single-family home that would be the largest in the city. The deal closed for $23 million on October 21, 2016. Kalorama is a popular destination for well-heeled Washington residents.

A recent profile in Washingtonian magazine also painted Bezos as someone who has gotten used to the scene in DC, and may be looking for an easy excuse to spend more time there.

If Washington is already a place where Bezos likes to spend his time, it stands to reason it's a top choice for HQ2. 

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It's a desirable city for other reasons, too. 

There are a few other reasons Amazon may choose DC.

It meets all the criteria the company set for HQ2, including those for transportation, education, workforce, and livability. It has a well-respected higher-education system, and there's plenty going on that makes it a desirable place for a younger workforce to live. 

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Retailers compete for registries, as couples ask for pricey things, and the people who buy them often pay full-price. It's a big business: wedding guests spend $19 billion every year specifically on wedding-registry gifts, according to Loop Capital.

Amazon has lured couples in to list their wedding registries on the site by offering discounts for completing the list of items, as well as bonus gifts when gift-givers have spent a certain amount of money on particular brands.

According to Loop Capital's Anthony Chukumba, who surveyed 200 couples getting married, Amazon is now "definitively positioned itself as the 'go-to' retailer for 'digital native' millennial couples."

Amazon now has the highest share of the wedding-registry market. 54% of couples surveyed were registered with the company, according to Chukumba's research. Though that number has dipped slightly in the last few months, Amazon now accounts for 40% of all registries of those surveyed, which is up from 39% in March.

Many couples surveyed were registered at more than one store, which explains why these numbers are a bit different.

In terms of share, Bed Bath & Beyond sits far back in second place with 27% of surveyed couples registering there, accounting for 20% of the total registries. It used to be the far-and-away category leader, but Amazon's online dominance has unseated it, Chukumba notes.

Target was in third place, with 20% of couples registering there, accounting for 15% of all the registries.

Both Bed Bath and Beyond and Target have been trending upward, while more specialty retailers like Williams-Sonoma are trending downward.

"We remain impressed by how quickly Amazon was able to become a force in the wedding-registry business — we note the company's total registrant and registry market shares were just 19% and 12%, respectively, when we completed our initial analysis less than a year and a half ago," Chukumba wrote.

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