Israel is about to get Amazon and, well, everyone is super excited
With the site set to launch this month, locals are preparing for the convenience of batteries and books delivered to their doorsteps.
When Devorah Messing moved from Baltimore to Israel in the summer of 2016, the last thing on her mind was Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte. She was instead focused on picking up an entire life spent in the U.S. and transplanting her husband and two teenage children to their new Mediterranean home. A seasonal drink was just not a high priority. But then that first fall came around.
Messing's daughter had grown accustomed to making her favorite caffeinated beverage at home using the Starbucks Via instant packets, available in bulk with the mere click of a button on Amazon. Alas, in 2016, Amazon was not yet available in Israel. Luckily, the Messings had a trick up their sleeve: Devorah's husband, Rachi, travels to America several times a year for his job at Microsoft. And because he flies so frequently for business, his status with Delta allows him an extra suitcase. In the fall of 2016, one of those suitcases came back full of pumpkin spice latte pouches.
"We had like 5 million of them," Messing told From The Grapevine when we reached her by phone. "But now she's decided she doesn't like them."
The next time Messing's daughter has an inkling for an Amazon item, the family won't have to rely on an empty suitcase anymore. The Seattle-based online retailer – which boasts 300 million customers worldwide – plans on opening a site in Israel later this month. Besides the U.S., Amazon currently has dedicated marketplaces in the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Canada, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, Japan, China, India and Mexico. New countries, like Israel, are constantly being added.
When the new site launches in Israel, it will begin by offering items from local retailers – saving Israelis the hassle of trekking to a store every time they need a pack of AA batteries. It's unclear at the moment when Amazon will open up its entire warehouse of goodies to the Israeli market. Amazon has reportedly told international businesses to store inventory in Israel, and there is widespread speculation that Amazon will aid this effort by constructing a warehouse in the Mediterranean country.
An Amazon warehouse in Germany, which is the company's second largest market after the U.S. In the past, Israelis have had to wait for items from this warehouse and pay extra in taxes. That soon will be changing. (Photo: Sean Gallup / Getty Images)
Amazon is already somewhat familiar with operating in Israel. The tech giant has two R&D centers there – one in Tel Aviv and one in Haifa – employing 200 people who mainly work on the company’s Alexa voice-operated device. In addition, Amazon acquired an Israeli startup called Annapurna Labs in 2015. That company makes computer hardware, specifically the kind used in cloud services, which has become one of the biggest drivers of Amazon's success. That was welcome news for many Israeli-based tech companies like Moovit, GetTaxi, Wix, Viber and Glide that use Amazon's web services to help run their businesses.
The fact that Amazon is now adding consumer goods to its portfolio of offerings in Israel has the locals excited. Mordy Derovan, an American expat who now lives in Israel and works in the marketing industry, once asked a friend from the U.S. to bring him Fig Newtons and Gold Bond Medicated Body Powder when they came for a visit. "The U.S. has undergone a consumerism evolution. Amazon has changed the nature of the game and stimulated the economy," he told us. "This will only increase competition in Israel and will make sure that competing companies up their game and provide world class services."
Skyler Inman, a Houston native attending graduate school in Israel, is not so sure about the concept. When asked if she'll be using Amazon once it opens in Israel, she simply replied: "The problem isn’t the originating company, it’s the guy who delivers it." And then promptly sent us this picture of her door.
According to analysts, more than half of all American households are members of Amazon Prime. One of those customers was Messing before she and her family moved to Israel. "When you ran out of toilet paper or paper towels, you just ordered it online," she said. "It was crazy convenient." Back in Baltimore, on her birthday a few years back, her husband treated her to a new gift each hour, courtesy of the "Amazon Now" delivery service available in major U.S. cities. "Like a box of Mike and Ikes or a birthday book by Dr. Seuss. It was pretty funny."
Until Amazon is fully up and operational in Israel, Messing told us she'll still be relying on her husband's frequent business trips and empty suitcases for personal deliveries. Her daughter now has a new request: Starbucks peppermint mocha.
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