How big is Amazon, really?

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Amazon's Chattanooga fulfillment center is see on June 25, 2020.

I'm fond of repeating a shopping statistic that often surprises people. In the United States - even during the pandemic - only about $14 out of each $100 worth of stuff we buy is spent online. Amazon is responsible for roughly $5 of that.

So is Amazon a giant that dominates our internet spending or a blip in America's shopping universe? It depends on how you look at the numbers. Amazon is huge in internet sales, but puny relative to all the goods Americans buy.

Our perception of Amazon's size influences how the public and policymakers think about the company. And yet while the company's share of spending matters, it also doesn't tell us everything.

Permit me to get a little nerdy about numbers.