아마존이 자사의 파트너사 중 판매실적이 좋은 회사를 대상으로 아마존렌딩(amazon lending)이라는 대출프로그램을 운영중이네요. 새로 알게된 내용인데 인상적입니다. 금융권 대출이 힘들거나 조건이 너무 높아서 회사 운영이 힘든 회사 중 아마존과의 거래가 원활하고 우수한 실적을 보인 곳에 대한 지원책으로 매우 좋은 프로그램으로 봅니다. 이런 신뢰는 '고객제일주의'라는 아마존의 기본 철학과도 일맥상통합니다. 파트너사도 '고객'이니까요. 국내 유통기업에서 이런 프로그램을 진행할만한 기업이 과연 있을지 의문입니다. 아마존! 역시 멋진 회사입니다.
아마존 대변인은 “창업 18년차 인터넷 소매 대기업 아마존이 상업용 대출 분야에 진출함으로써 은행이나 기존 대출업체를 통했을 때보다 빠르게 판매업체(판매자)들이 현금을 확보하게 됐다”며 “우리 목표는 그들의 어려움을 해결해 주는 것”이라고 말했다.
하지만 지난해 말 시작해 아직 시기적으로 얼마 되지 않은 점을 들어 아마존 대출프로그램을 제안한 판매업체가 얼마나 많은지에 대해서는 밝히지 않았다.
아마존대출(Amazon Lending)의 목표가 ‘규모에 상관없이 모든 판매업체들에게 서비스를 제공하는 것’이라고 말한 그는 해외에 본사를 둔 제3자 판매업체들에게로 서비스를 확대할 가능성도 시사했다.
본지가 인터뷰한 업체들은 1,000~3만8,000달러 정도 대출 제안을 받았으며 이자는 1% 미만(한군데)~13.9%(대부분)까지 다양했다. 소규모 사업체에 대한 대출 이자는 보통 13~19%선이다.
Small Businesses Are Finding An Unlikely Banker: Amazon
Lisa Zerr urgently needed funds to upgrade the kids' merchandise carried by her business, Yankee Toy Box, for Halloween and the holiday shopping season. A bank had turned down her request for a loan.
Then she got a pitch explaining that, based on the business's Amazon.com selling performance, she had prequalified for a loan from Amazon Capital Services Inc.
Rather than adding to her credit-card debt, or selling her Bedford, N.H., business's accounts receivable to a factoring firm, she borrowed $38,000 from the Internet retailing giant in July and another $13,000 last month.
With its foray into commercial lending, 18-year-old Amazon.com Inc. AMZN -0.75% is looking to help sellers obtain cash more quickly than they might otherwise from a bank or other traditional lender, an Amazon spokesman said. "Our goal is to solve a difficult problem for sellers," he said.
He declined to say how many merchants have been invited to participate in its Amazon Lending program, adding that it "is early" in the life span of the initiative, which began at the end of 2011.
The goal of Amazon Lending, he added, is to "serve sellers of all sizes." Going forward, lending to third-party sellers based outside the U.S. "is something we'll certainly take a look at," the Amazon spokesman said.
Merchants who spoke to The Wall Street Journal said they were offered loans ranging from $1,000 to $38,000 apiece, with interest rates from less than 1% (for one of them) to 13.9% (for most who were interviewed). Small-business credit-card interest rates typically range from 13% to 19%.
Those who received an Amazon Lending pitch also characterized themselves as heavy sellers of goods through Amazon's website.
Some sellers question the logic of handing over to Amazon yet another role that's so critical to their independent businesses.
"When you start borrowing money from them, it's giving them more control over your business," said Ron Haislip-Hansberry of Wilbraham, Mass. The 46-year-old has been exclusively selling books, toys and other retail goods on Amazon.com for about five years under the name PZA Books & Toys, and expects $250,000 in sales this year.
He doesn't have a line of credit from a bank or any outstanding business debt, but if he needed to borrow capital, he said he would try his local credit union instead.
Dennis Erber of Noblesville, Ind., isn't willing to borrow money for the possibility of selling more music memorabilia on Amazon.com this holiday season. He received an email from the Internet company last week saying he prequalified for a $1,000 loan, but didn't bother to click on a link in it to learn more.
"In this environment, we don't want to stretch our budget any more than we already have," said Mr. Erber, 64, adding that his decade-old-business, BuyRockNRoll.com LLC, sold $125,000 worth of goods last year, about half through Amazon.com and the rest via his company website and eBay.com. "Once you lock yourself into a loan with Amazon, then it may make it more difficult for you to sell elsewhere."
By lending to its own partners, Seattle-based Amazon stands to see hefty returns.
Amazon collects a commission of 6% to 15% on many sales made through its marketplace. It charges larger sellers a monthly membership fee. If, through its lending program, Amazon can help its partners increase their sales on the marketplace, the company stands to pull in even more commission revenue, in addition to the interest it makes on the loans.
And it already processes credit-card payments for most of the two million merchants who sell goods on its Web platform. "Amazon can really do its homework with these loans. They know exactly how much these merchants are selling, exactly how much money they are bringing in, because they control the data through the [Amazon] website," said Forrester Research analyst Andy Hoar.
Sales on the company's online marketplace comprised between 9% and 12% of Amazon's $48 billion in revenue last year, according to analyst estimates. Sellers on the marketplace accounted for 40% of Amazon's unit sales in the second quarter, compared with 36% in the first quarter, the company said. That could reach 55% within five years, according to Wells Fargo estimates.
Many merchants also pay Amazon to store, package and ship their merchandise to their customers for them. As a result, it could potentially hold the seller's inventory hostage if a borrower were to default, said Jordan Malik, the founder of FBAFinds.com, a Levittown, N.Y., product-sourcing service for Amazon.com merchants. "It's comparable to getting a car loan," he said. "Default on the loan and the bank can just come pick up your car."
With the busy holiday season now afoot, more owners with Amazon seller accounts may be tempted to take up the company's pitch for prequalified loans. "Use these funds to purchase inventory and increase your sales on Amazon.com," the Amazon Lending email offer states.
Merchants who borrowed funds from Amazon had differing opinions about whether the loans' terms restrict them to using the funds to buy only merchandise they'd sell through its marketplace.
One offer said that if approved, funds are advanced to the seller's Amazon Seller Account within roughly five business days. After that, Amazon "initiates a disbursement" to the seller's bank account on file, the offer said. Monthly payments then are deducted from the borrower's Amazon Seller Account.
With the economy stagnant, proprietors of many small firms continue to struggle to secure bank loans, particularly if their firms are only a few years old.
Amazon Lending faces mounting competition from a small group of alternative lenders.
PayPal Inc. this summer ran a pilot merchant-cash-advance program in the U.K. to "test the appetite of businesses for cash advances, and to get feedback from them," said Rob Skinner, a spokesman for the online-payments company's U.K. division. He declined to provide details on the program, such as how many of its U.K. merchants were offered cash advances, for how much or whether a similar program might be launched in the U.S. "We are assessing the results of the pilot, and have not yet announced any future plans," he added.
Today, there are roughly 55 merchant cash-advance providers in the U.S., up from 40 two years ago, according to Janinne Dall'Orto, a senior manager at First Annapolis Inc., a Linthicum, Md., electronic-payments consulting firm. One such provider, AdvanceMe Inc. of New York, issues merchants about $400 million in capital a year, with smaller rivals issuing between $35 million and $50 million a year, she added.
Chris Williams of Orlando, Fla., started Premier Closeouts & Liquidations, an online retailer of beauty products and various other consumer goods, just two years ago. He said he doesn't have much to offer a bank in the way of collateral since his home is worth about half of what he owes in mortgage payments.
The 42-year-old entrepreneur, who runs the business out of his home part-time, accepted an offer late last month for a $2,000 loan from Amazon with a 13% interest rate that he plans to pay off by February. He said he does about 50% of his sales through the online marketplace and the rest via his company website. Last year he made about $100,000 in sales and he expects to do about the same volume of business this year.
Around the holidays, "inventory turns over a lot faster, so the additional money allows you to purchase more product," he said.
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