Amazon Australia goes live

Reuters

Retail giant Amazon has finally launched in Australia just in time for Christmas.

Millions of products are now available to buy from Tuesday, Amazon Inc announced, almost two weeks after the previously tipped launch date of November 24.

The arrival of the online marketplace has been met with some criticism by industry leaders - who claim the discount prices will cost Australian jobs.

The global retailer said it would offer free shipping nationwide for purchases over A$49 ($37.26), with millions of products available from clothes to sporting goods to consumer electronics.

Amazon has launched in Australia.

The move establishes the $550 million behemoth as an aggressive presence in the sluggish Australian retail sector, just as shopkeepers were hoping for a rush of sales over the important Christmas holiday season.

Amazon's Australia country manager, Rocco Braeuniger, said in a statement the U.S. company would "earn the trust" of Australian shoppers and, over time, create "thousands of new jobs".

Australia has long been home to Amazon-registered sellers, but until Tuesday they were limited to sending goods offshore because the Seattle conglomerate did not have a warehouse in the country of 24 million people. This also meant Australians had to wait longer times, and pay higher fees, for shipping.

The company has now set up a massive distribution warehouse on the outskirts of Melbourne city, on the country's east coast where four-fifths of the population live, and the company hopes to cut delivery time to as little as a day.

Under the free delivery offer, Amazon said it estimated delivery times as short as three business days in the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra - home to half the country's population - while shipping to remote areas could take 10 days.

Shoppers could pay a fee for faster shipping times.

Amazon did not say what time of day it would begin taking orders from its Australian warehouse, except to say it would be on Dec. 5.

It also did not comment on any last-minute problems from an order-taking trial which began on November 23.

Amazon said it planned to offer its rapid-shipping subscription service, Prime, in mid-2018, in a sign it is unperturbed by the geographic challenge posed by one of the world's most sparsely populated countries. Australia is the size of the mainland United States, with one-thirteenth its population.

Australian retail shares have fallen sharply since Amazon confirmed plans for the country in April. Shares of top department store operator Myer Holdings Ltd are down 30 percent since that time.

Myer has been shutting stores and ramping up online sales, and last month it halved its three-year target for growth in sales per square meter. Its online sales leapt 68 percent in the 13 weeks to Oct. 28, but remained only a tiny fraction of its total revenue.

Shares of No. 1 electronics retailer Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd are down 7 percent since April, while smaller JB HiFi are off by 6 percent amid fears of competition from Amazon.

Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman, says he's not worried about Amazon and warned consumers to beware of its promises to deliver before Christmas.

"If you order something off Amazon, heads you get it, tails you don't," he told Seven.

He was confident Harvey Norman would not be affected by Amazon, but said he was concerned with its business practices.

"We are here to take Amazon on," he said.

"The big thing I am worried about is if they go and do predatory pricing, they will go out and sell it at a loss to send other retailers broke - that is retailers who are employing people, paying taxes."