Christmas in July? Amazon's 'Prime Day' is back

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Shoppers are scooping up deals on everything from electronics to pantry items during Amazon’s second annual “Prime Day” sales bonanza.

The e-commerce powerhouse launched the event last July to promote its $99 annual Prime loyalty program, which offers free two-day shipping and other perks. Some of the big discounts are on large screen TVs and Amazon devices such as its Echo smart speaker, Kindle e-reader and Fire TV-streaming devices.

Consumers may be hoping for better deals than last year, when #PrimeDayFail became a trending topic amid complaints that the products offered were unimpressive and the best items sold out quickly.

But Amazon said it was a success, with 18 per cent more orders placed that day than the prior year’s Black Friday, the shopping day after Thanksgiving that’s typically the busiest day in retail. The company also said it got hundreds of thousands of new Prime signups.

(You have to have Prime to be eligible for deals. There’s a 30-day free trial.)

This year, deals include $50 off Amazon’s Echo smart speaker on sale at $130, half off toys including Nerf and Barbie brands and up to 60 per cent off athletic shoes. Most deals are on a limited-time basis, encouraging shoppers to check the site throughout the day.

Retail analytics firm Market Track said in its study of about 2,000 products at 6 a.m. Tuesday, average discounts ranged from 20 per cent to 30 per cent, with the best deals on high-demand products including tablets, tools, video games, soundbars and toys.

Rick Ostopowicz, a marketing communications manager for a chemical company in Catonsville, Maryland, was disappointed in the deals last year during Prime Day. But this year he found deals on electronics: he bought bone conduction headphones that were $14 off at $35.99, a Wi-Fi range extender $50 off at $149 and a Wi-Fi router that was $30 off at $49.

“Pretty good savings so far,” he said, adding that he would have skipped the headphones without the Prime Day discount and Amazon’s generous return policy.

Debi Hyland, who works in IT in Henderson, Colorado, created an advance wishlist of the items she was interested in, so she could get notifications when they went on sale. By 6:30 a.m., she had picked up a Silhouette Cameo, an electronic cutting machine used for arts and crafts projects, for $50 off at $179.97.

“Total score,” she said.

Some customers took to Twitter early Tuesday to complain about problems adding the “Lightning Deals” to their carts, but that problem was resolved by midmorning, Amazon spokeswoman Ana Rigby said.

Rivals are countering Amazon with deals of their own. Wal-Mart has cut prices throughout the month on a host of products online. Macy’s online site touted a “Black Friday in July” sale that runs through Sunday. J.C. Penney and Toys R Us offered their own sales too.

For the first time, owners of Amazon’s smart speaker devices, including the Echo, can use the gadgets to order Prime deals. More third-party sellers are offering Prime Day deals, too. Amazon says twice as many small businesses and sellers are participating in Prime Day this year compared to last.