Amazon Prime Day set for June 21-22; tech giant turns to actor Kristen Bell to help counter critics

Actor and small business owner Kristen Bell speaks about Amazon and small businesses during a recorded press briefing video.

Amazon confirmed Tuesday night that it will hold its annual Prime Day sales event on Monday June 21 and Tuesday June 22.

The company will use the event this year not just to boost sales but to deliver a promotional counterpunch. With its programs for third-party sellers under an antitrust microscope, the company is bringing in actors and television personalities Kristen Bell, Karomo Brown, and Mindy Kaling to promote its economic impact on small businesses around the country.

“At the heart of making Prime Day is our incredible seller community, small and medium sized businesses that enable Amazon to deliver a great experience for customers on Prime Day and throughout the year,” said Dave Clark, the Amazon Worldwide Consumer CEO, in a video played during a virtual Amazon press briefing.

Dave Clark, Amazon Consumer CEO.

Clark added, “COVID-19 has created a lot of challenges for these businesses, and they’ve shown incredible resilience and creativity. I’ve been inspired to see the many brick and mortar businesses adapt by making the pivot to online selling with us, helping keep their employees working throughout the pandemic.”

Amazon’s focus on small businesses during the event isn’t new. However, this year’s announcement comes amid a new lawsuit from the Washington, D.C., attorney general alleges that Amazon illegally manipulates the e-commerce market to its own advantage by penalizing third-party sellers that offer products at lower prices on other platforms.

“Amazon has used its dominant position in the online retail market to win at all costs. It maximizes its profits at the expense of third-party sellers and consumers, while harming competition, stifling innovation, and illegally tilting the playing field in its favor,” said Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl A. Racine in announcing the suit.

Bell, known for roles in Veronica Mars, The Good Place and Frozen, offered a very different perspective during the Amazon virtual press briefing.

“I just want to thank and acknowledge Amazon for its big-time commitment to working with hundreds of thousands of small businesses … throughout the year, but especially for Prime Day,” Bell said.

She’s an entrepreneur herself, with a line of plant-based baby care products called Hello Bello. (Yes, it has Amazon store.)

In a recorded video shown during the briefing, Bell interviewed two third-party sellers, Kyle Goguen of Pawstruck and Kennedy Lowery of Live by Being, who spoke about the benefits of Amazon’s online reach and distribution capabilities. The interview did not address Amazon’s pricing policies for third-party sellers.

Third-party sellers generated more than $3.5 billion in sales during last year’s Prime Day, the two biggest days ever for sellers, said Keri Cusick, Amazon’s head of small business empowerment, in the press briefing video. That was up 60% year-over-year, exceeding the growth rate for Amazon’s own retail sales, she said.

More than 2 million deals will be available globally, said Jamil Ghani, vice president of Amazon Prime, in the video.

Prime Day creates a second peak season for Amazon’s fulfillment workers. Internal Amazon numbers in a report last year by Reveal, a publication of The Center for Investigative Reporting, disputes assertions from Amazon executives that injury rates do not rise around peak times. Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor unions, published a study Tuesday that it said showed Amazon fulfillment centers had 5.9 serious injuries for every 100 employees, a rate nearly 80% higher than at non-Amazon warehouses.

Prime Day began in 2015. This year’s event comes amid a changing of the guard at Amazon. Founder Jeff Bezos will officially step down as CEO on June 5, remaining as executive chairman. He will be succeeded as CEO by Amazon Web Services leader Andy Jassy.

It’s the first Prime Day for Clark in his current position. He previously ran Amazon’s logistics and fulfilment operations.

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Note: Prime Day 2021 dates corrected since publication.

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