The country's largest ecommerce retailer beat expectations for the period, as the effects of some $500 million in cost-cutting moves became clearer.

Amazon.com Inc. reported first-quarter total sales of $127.4 billion, a 9% jump from a year earlier, even as the ecommerce giant announced additional layoffs across its operations.

Amazon’s total sales include its own product sales, sales from its marketplace, as well as marketplace seller fees, advertising fees and revenue from Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Amazon reported net income of $3.2 billon in the first quarter, a dramatic swing from the $3.8 billion loss a year earlier. Ecommerce sales dropped 0.06% year over year to $51.093 billion in Q1.

Amazon revenue breakdown

Amazon’s results suggest the company’s efforts to reduce costs are starting to bear fruit. Operating expenses increased 8.7% in the quarter, the slowest pace in at least a decade. The company’s North America segment was profitable on an operating basis for the first time since late 2021.

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Amazon Web Services generated $21.4 billion in sales, a 16% rise from a year earlier and higher than the $21.2 billion analysts had expected. The cloud-computing division is the company’s largest source of income. Despite AWS’  better-than-expected Q1 performance, Amazon said it began laying off employees in the AWS operation amid slowing sales growth in its most profitable division.

That 16% rise from Q1 2022 is the slowest growth rate reported since Amazon began breaking out the segment and the fifth consecutive quarter in which growth slowed year-over-year.

Earlier this year, chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky warned that AWS growth would slow in 2023.

Advertising sales rose more than 21% to $9.51 billion in the quarter. Revenue from third-party seller services — which include commissions, shipping services and other fees that Amazon collects from sellers on its marketplace — jumped 17.7% to $29.8 billion in Q1.

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“Amazon did what it needed to do in Q1 by reversing — or at least stalling — its most troublesome declining growth trends,” said Andrew Lipsman, an analyst at Insider Intelligence, told Bloomberg News. “Amazon’s stronger-than-expected performance for its key profit centers of AWS and advertising indicate that the enterprise and the digital ad sectors may be turning the corner.”

Amazon is No. 1 in the 2022 Top 1000 database. The Top 1000 ranks North American web merchants by sales. It is No. 3 in the Online Marketplaces database, which ranks the 100 largest global marketplaces.

Amazon announces BNPL option

Several hours before releasing its earnings, Amazon announced a new buy-now-pay-later option called Citi Flex Pay on Amazon Pay. Under the program, eligible Citi credit card members can pay over time with Citi Flex Pay when using Amazon Pay during checkout at participating online retail sites. The deal with Amazon marks the first time Citi credit card members can use Citi Flex Pay through a digital wallet.

Amazon already offers BNPL through Affirm. Amazon also accepts Apple Pay, and in March Apple announced a BNPL plan of its own.

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Operational changes at Amazon

Amazon has made several moves in recent months to cut its operating costs, most notably by laying off thousands of workers from its ecommerce unit. In early January, CEO Andy Jassy said planned job reductions totaled 18,000 workers. That’s a full 1% of Amazon’s workforce — and well above earlier expectations that Amazon would slash 10,000 jobs.

The Seattle-based company employed almost 1.47 million people as of March 31, a decrease of 10% from the period a year earlier and down from more than 1.54 million workers three months earlier.

Second-quarter guidance on Amazon revenue

Seattle-based Amazon said it expects sales in the current quarter to reach between $127 billion and $133 billion, keeping in line with analysts’ forecasts.

Other news from the first quarter

On April 26, news site The Verge reported Amazon had decided to close its Halo division, which sold fitness- and sleep-tracking devices. Amazon had stopped selling its three Halo products and plans to lay off portions of the Halo team, the news site said.

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“We have made the difficult decision to wind down the Halo program, which will result in role reductions,” Melissa Cha, Amazon’s VP of smart home and health, told staffers in an email The Verge obtained.

Some analysts said Amazon has more work to do. “We keep waiting for profit and cash flow to turn here,” Stefan Slowinski, an analyst at BNP Paribas Exane, told Bloomberg. “With all of the headlines on restructuring and closure of businesses, we’re really not getting that coming through in the numbers.”

Amazon earnings

For the fiscal first quarter ended March 31, Amazon reported:

  • Amazon revenue from third-party seller services of $29.8 billion. That’s 17.7% increase from the comparable quarter of 2022.
  • $9.5 billion in revenue from advertising services, a 21% jump from a year earlier
  • Operating cash flow of $54.3 billion for the trailing twelve months, an increase of 38% from the $39.3 billion for the trailing twelve months ended March 31, 2022.

Percentage changes may not align exactly with dollar figures due to rounding. Check back for more earnings reports.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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