In the 1980s retail behemoth Sears had the chance to purchase Home Depot for several hundred million. It passed. As is so often the case with the near-term dominant, an abundant present blinds them to the future.
A decade later Amazon came along with an obscure and unprofitable notion that people would prefer to shop on their computers instead of in person. Nearly thirty years later the vast majority of retail sales still occur in person, but Amazon surely discovered a market that the giants of retail in the 1990s (this still included Sears) looked at with upturned noses. If not, Sears would have put Amazon out of business long ago.
Yet it didn’t. The future in commerce is unknowable to businesses and investors alike. How we know this can be found in the staggering returns the original Amazon investors have enjoyed. Equity prices are a projection of all the dollars investors expect a company to earn in the future, and as evidenced by Amazon’s valuation when it floated its shares in 1997, few saw the internet and internet shopping as the future.
Please keep all of this in mind with the FTC’s lawsuit against Amazon’s alleged “monopoly” practices well in mind. The very notion…The FTC is attacking a corporation (Amazon) for having had the temerity to create an all new market, a market that the giants of retail could have easily taken for themselves if they’d taken what Amazon was doing seriously. They didn’t. Giants invariably stumble, and their stumble is generally rooted in a failure to recognize that in commerce, the present is the past.
Which is why the FTC’s Lina Khan should be genuflecting before Amazon. Think about it. It’s established Khan disdains big, which means she should be cheering Amazon for taking on the biggest of the big, and exposing them as hopelessly behind the times.
That Amazon has massively improved the retail present is a statement of the obvious, and is at the very least implied by the FTC’s pointless lawsuit. The FTC wouldn’t be pouncing if Jeff Bezos’s vision hadn’t proven wise.
More important, Bezos’s brilliant leading of consumers to an all-new place sets the stage for entrepreneurs eager to prove him wrong. And investment will find them. Evidence that investment will be abundant for would-be Amazon slayers can be found in Amazon’s near $1.3 trillion market capitalization. The latter is a flashing signal that the entrepreneurs who prove Bezos and Amazon wrong will return otherworldly amounts to their intrepid backers.
Sadly, these truths are lost on Khan. Plainly of the view that internet shopping is the endpoint of advance, she doesn’t recognize the previously mentioned truth that in commerce, the present is invariably the past. Difficult as it may be to imagine in light of Amazon’s present, internet shopping will soon enough take on dated qualities in much the same way that a visit to Sears or K-Mart today would stamp a shopper as hopelessly behind the times.
Amazon’s dominance in a market it created is the surest sign of copious investment now and in the future to discover life after Amazon. The executives at Amazon surely recognize change is coming that could cripple it (thus all the billions invested by Amazon in order to discover an opaque future) , and so do the unknowns of retail who think they can beat the giant.
In short, Amazon’s size is paradoxically the solution to Lina Khan’s fear of big. Conversely, a lawsuit that looks into the past will restrain advance, thus keeping the big around much longer than always fickle markets ever would.