Amazon’s shareholder meeting on Wednesday is one of the rare times we get to hear from Jeff Bezos.
The rest of the year, the company’s founder and CEO frequently skips duties, like chatting with analysts on earnings calls; interviewing with the press or pitching new products at special events.
So, with that in mind, we’ve assembled a list of the topics we would like him to address, with the understanding that some of them are more likely to get answers than others (it never hurts to ask!).
The meeting takes place at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. It will kick off with some of the company’s more procedural tasks, such as nominating its board of directors, appointing an independent auditor, and voting on a shareholder proposal to disclose political contributions.
Todd Bishop and I will be there in person to cover the events as they unfold. In the meantime, here are the items on our Amazon wish list:
Hardware a hot topic: Our top item is for Bezos to disclose one of Amazon’s best-kept secrets: How many Kindles it has sold? We aren’t picky. We’ll even take a number in aggregate for all e-readers and tablets sold to date. But Amazon needs to re-evaluate its no comment policy on how much hardware it sells, especially with the recent launch of the Amazon Fire TV and rumors of an upcoming Amazon smartphone.
Shipping in the spotlight: The company is splurging on all forms of delivery, from building more warehouses to investments in futuristic technology, like drones. Its current area of focus is getting goods to customers on the same day, and more down-to-earth options, like partnerships with the USPS for Sunday delivery. The question on shareholder minds: Will shipping costs ever let up, and if not, how will Amazon get this issue under control?
Paper or plastic?: Last year, Bezos assured shareholders it was making headway on the business model for delivering groceries. Now that it’s expanded into new cities, with new pricing plans, we’ll expect an update on the economics of Amazon Fresh. We’d also like to hear Bezos’ opinions on a host of other start-ups entering the food-delivery business.
Content is king and darn expensive, too: Amazon is paying big bucks to amass a video catalog that will rival Netflix. It recently shelled out millions for old episodes from HBO and it continues to produce original programming through its own studios. How does this pay off when the content is given away for free as incentive to sign up for a $99 Amazon Prime account, which also offers free, two-day delivery?
Keeping the peace: Bezos should address any number of battles brewing. In the past, people have protested the company’s low tax rate and difficult working conditions at its distribution centers. Tomorrow, around 100 contract security officers and their supporters plan to be in attendance to protest worker rights. Amazon is also in contract discussions with Hachette, which claims the e-commerce company is delaying book shipments in order to get better deals on their e-books. Can Bezos make amends?
Margins, margins, margins: Almost all of these topics and investment areas boil down to one thing: Profits. The company has grown to 124,000 full-and-part-time employees, and is spending heavily on so many fronts. Will shareholders give Bezos the go-ahead to be even more aggressive, or demand that he draw a line in the sand for when it will all pay off?
That’s our list. What else would you like to hear about?
UPDATE: Here’s GeekWire’s coverage from Amazon’s annual meeting:
- Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: We’re not secretive, we’re just quiet
- Amazon will have 10,000 robots in its warehouses by year’s end, Bezos says
- Amazon adds 30 million customers in the past year
- Animal rights activists protest Foie Gras outside of Amazon’s shareholder meeting
- Sold out: Amazon’s warehouse tours booked solid until March 2015, with 14,000 sign-ups