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Amazon Wants to Win Over France With PR Project “Ratatouille”

Photo of Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France
Photo by Rodrigo Kugnharski on Unsplash

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Amazon Wants to Win Over France With PR Project “Ratatouille”

What, was “Project Baguette Beret” taken already?

Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Amazon is running a PR operation in France codenamed “Project Ratatouille.” Amazon’s international business has been historically indifferent to profits as it hoovered up market share, but the new francophile PR drive suggests Amazon’s days of subsidizing its overseas businesses may be headed for the guillotine.

Quelle Horreur

Taken as a whole, Amazon’s international business has been unprofitable for years, but on the company’s Q3 earnings call last year CFO Brian Olsavsky said more mature markets like European countries and Japan were showing individual profits. France, however, has lagged neighbors like Germany and the UK. Simultaneously, Amazon has faced the same macroeconomic reckoning as its fellow tech luminaries, so it can’t afford to simply burn cash at the altar of growth anymore.

“International sales for Amazon are still less than 25% of its total sales,” Maureen Hinton, a retail analyst at GlobalData, told The Daily Upside. “With post-COVID returns to physical stores and its maturity in its home market, the US, it makes sense to do whatever it can to build sales in the major European economies.”

Sources told Bloomberg that Amazon is hitting every button it can to try to court French consumers, and one source said it was inspired by McDonald’s adding a more gourmet flair to its menu items in the 1990s to penetrate the French market. Amazon might face a more uphill battle than McDo (as it’s affectionately known in France) did 30 years ago:

  • France’s labor laws have not always worked in Amazon’s favor. During the pandemic, a union successfully forced Amazon to shut its French warehouses for five weeks to address COVID-19 safety concerns.
  • In 2021 Amazon missed its own targets for packages delivered from its French warehouses, and a study from consumer data company Kantar showed that the company actually lost market share from 2019 to 2020. That’s a shocking result given 2020 saw a lockdown–fuelled boom in e-commerce, from which France was no exception.

“As we have seen with the current demonstrations in France, regarding pension reforms, the French are very protective about their rights, especially employment rights,” Hinton said. “While Amazon is the leading online business in France, as a US company with US work attitudes, it has to overcome negative socio-political attitudes towards it.”

Left Holding The Fleabag: Amazon’s international business isn’t the only one with delivery issues. Earlier this month The Hollywood Reporter reported Fleabag creator and Killing Eve writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who Amazon signed on in 2019 with a three-year contract worth $60 million, has yet to produce anything for the company. Maybe Waller-Bridge will give a look down the camera and explain her creative process one day.

– Isobel Asher Hamilton