Bagnall: How coronavirus launched Amazon and Shopify into stratosphere

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Amazon and Shopify occupy very different ends of the electronic commerce universe yet both have seen their businesses turbocharged by the coronavirus.

Seattle-based Amazon operates a vast logistics network through which it sells and delivers products of its own and those offered by third parties. Shopify, headquartered in Ottawa, sells online entrepreneurs the tools for marketing their goods to customers directly.

This week we saw an even more profound distinction between the two firms — that of scale. Amazon on Tuesday revealed it had broken ground on a 2.8 million square foot fulfillment centre in Barrhaven, to complement the 1.0 million square foot operation on Boundary Road in the city’s east end.  Combined, these Amazon centres — both Broccolini projects — will be roughly double the size of the headquarters for the Department of National Defence.

These warehouses, large by Ottawa standards, are but a tiny fraction of Amazon’s overall operation. The Seattle firm last year spent $40 billion (all figures U.S.) running its fulfillment network which, including Barrhaven, will number 14 warehouses in Canada. There are 161 more worldwide. Amazon generated revenues of $280 billion last year and employed 800,000 at yearend. The coronavirus-inspired surge in online sales prompted Amazon to hire another 175,000.