What do autographed vintage Air Jordans, environmentally friendly baby wipes, cheap wine, and plumber recommendations have in common? You can find them all at Amazon.com.
On Monday, Amazon announced the official launch of Amazon Home Services, a marketplace and recommendation tool to help people find, schedule, and pay for services like home cleaning, lawn care, and handyman jobs. The new service is obviously competing in the same space as user review tools like Angie’s List, Yelp, and Porch, and customers with verified purchases made through Amazon will be able to review services as well. Amazon also says all of its professionals are handpicked and fully insured, and if anything goes wrong with a job it promises to “work with customers and the pro to ensure the job gets done right or provide a refund.”
Amazon’s entrance into the sphere of contractors and professional home services may seem a little out of left field. But the move makes total sense in light of the company’s overarching mission—to become the destination for anyone wanting to find and purchase pretty much anything.
Here are a few other seemingly odd retail categories that Amazon has ventured into recently. They haven’t all been successful. In fact, some have basically been flops. But when you’re trying to take control of the marketplace for selling everything under the sun, a few misfires and false starts should be expected.
Amazon Art launched in the summer of 2013 as a marketplace selling tens of thousands of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other works—including some originals from masters like Monet and Norman Rockwell, with list prices into the millions of dollars. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some in the highbrow art world have been skeptical about the idea of one-click ordering, say, a Rembrandt.
Renowned economist Tyler Cowen pointed out the absurdity of being asked to pay $4.99 for shipping for a “mediocre Mary Cassatt lithograph” listed at $185,000, and wrote that he hoped Amazon Art was “a doomed venture.” The New Yorker noted that actually selling and profiting from high-end art may not be the point for Amazon: “Regardless of whether Amazon Art revolutionizes the art world, it will contribute to the perception that Amazon is working to create: whatever it is you’re looking for, you only need to remember one U.R.L.”
About the same time Amazon was getting into fine art, it quietly launched The Amazon Curated Flowers Collection, in which the e-retail giant would be selling and shipping flowers directly to customers. Apparently, the venture didn’t work out. Recode reported that the Collection was kaput within a few months, and now the only flower bouquets that can be ordered through the site come from third-party vendors.
Diapers & Baby Wipes
Another venture that seems to have not worked out as well as Amazon wished was its recent entrance into the diaper business. Last December, the company began selling Amazon Elements, its own brand of high-end, environmentally friendly diapers and wipes. Less than two months later, bad feedback from customers pushed Amazon to discontinue the diapers and take them off the market, at least until design improvements could be made. Amazon Elements Baby Wipes, meanwhile, are still listed for sale at the site, where they get a 4.5-star rating.
Amazon’s Collectible Coins marketplace hit the site last May, allowing shoppers to search, browse, and buy thousands of rare and historical authenticated coins from dozens of dealers. Like Amazon Art, the coins purchased via Amazon can be priced into the millions, and Amazon gets a cut of every sale—reportedly 5% to 20%.
Among the wide selection of autographed sports collectibles currently up for sale on Amazon is a pair of 1985 Air Jordan sneakers ($48,788 + $4.49 shipping) and a baseball featuring Lou Gehrig’s signature ($71,264.99, with free shipping!). Amazon got into sports memorabilia in 2012, and it has a section for entertainment collectibles as well.
The Amazon Wine marketplace was introduced in 2012 in about a dozen states, with shipping on up to six bottles priced at a flat $9.99. The service has since expanded for delivery to more than a dozen other states, and the site—no stranger to price wars—has been competing aggressively on wine promotions, notably with 1¢ shipping on many orders.