Geckobrands was wary of Amazon.com when it first started selling waterproof smartphone cases and other outdoor gear seven years ago. The Grandville, Michigan, company knew that getting too cozy with the world’s largest online retailer could alienate the brick-and-mortar stores with which it was trying to develop relationships. When the pandemic struck, Geckobrands products were in more than 3,000 locations, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, the supercenter chain Meijer and amusement park kiosks.
Now many of those stores are closed. With springtime orders tanking and bills piling up, Geckobrands has choked back its aversion to working with Amazon. “Our brand has to be more relevant on Amazon right now,” says Geckobrands President Gabe Miller, whose company now sells 50% more of its products through the e-commerce giant. “Store traffic, whether the retailer is open or closed, is just so suppressed.”
Consultants that help brands navigate Amazon’s marketplace say the company is attracting a broad range of vendors that before the outbreak sold everything from fishing gear and art supplies to clothing and beach totes at physical stores. Brands and wholesalers assume that many of their retail partners won’t survive the pandemic, meaning Amazon will probably hang onto much of the new business.
Jeff Bezos is spending heavily — and willing to forgo profits — to keep his company running through the pandemic. Amazon’s online sales soared 24% in the first quarter, the fastest pace in four years. Deemed essential, Amazon has a unique opportunity to grab market share while most of its