NEW YORK — When Amazon sets its sights on a new industry, corporate America shudders.
The latest example came Tuesday, when the online retailing giant said it is working with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to create a company to offer affordable health care to their employees. Stocks of health insurers tumbled, erasing billions of dollars in shareholder value.
Supermarket stocks slumped when Amazon unexpectedly bought Whole Foods last year. And when Amazon said it would sell Kenmore washing machines last summer, it rattled the shares of other appliance sellers.
IT ALL STARTED WITH BOOKS
Before it sold toilet paper, TVs and just about anything else, Amazon.com launched in 1995 as a site that mostly sold books. At the time, it pushed other booksellers to beef up their online presence.
But Amazon shook up the industry again in 2007, when it launched its Kindle e-book reader. Soon, more people traded paper books for digital versions. Barnes & Noble followed with the Nook e-reader two years later.
Big retailers, such as Target and Walmart, have spent billions to catch up with Amazon, and it seems to be paying off. Both companies have posted large increases in online sales recently.
Kohl’s, meanwhile, let Amazon inside its doors. The department store chain opened Amazon shops within its stores, selling Amazon’s voice-activated Echo devices and other products.
Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods pushed grocery stores to look at how they can improve their online ordering and delivery services.
Some have partnered with delivery service Instacart.