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Will Amazon Soon Challenge Jet, the Hot Discount Shopping Site From a Former Employee?

Some recent moves by Amazon make it a good question.

Asa Mathat
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

The last time the companies run by Jeff Bezos and Marc Lore squared off, there were fireworks. We’re about to see what happens the second time around.

The first time, Amazon instigated a pricing war with Lore’s company,, ultimately pressuring it into a $550 million sale to Amazon. It wasn’t exactly the outcome Lore was hoping for, but was a pretty good exit nonetheless. Now, as Lore’s new, members-only shopping site preps for its public launch, there are some signs that Bezos once again doesn’t plan to sit aside idly.

In the last few months, Amazon has been offering discounts on different products as exclusive deals for members of Prime, its two-day shipping and streaming media program. Last week, reports surfaced showing that Amazon was giving special discounts on video games to Prime members.

Then a Re/code reader tipped us off to the fact that Amazon has also been giving Prime members exclusive discounts on a wide selection of sneakers in recent months.

Amazon has sporadically offered special discounts to Prime members in the past, such as exclusive discounts on Vizio TVs dating back to 2013. But the timing of the current set of discounts across multiple product categories could have to do with the fact that Jet, which is operating in private beta currently, is also a membership program built on the idea of discount pricing. For $50 a year, Jet is promising its members the best prices on the Web thanks to a complex system of discounting by stripping costs out of the order fulfillment and shipping process of e-commerce.

I asked Amazon whether the Prime-exclusive discounts were the first step toward a more streamlined discount program for Prime members to challenge Jet’s approach. I didn’t actually think the company would admit it if they were, but was curious what kind of response I’d get.

“Prime is a loyalty program that is the gateway to the best of Amazon,” a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “From time to time, Amazon offers special pricing on select merchandise for Prime members. This is yet another added benefit to Prime members.”

Translation: Nothing to see here. Jet’s Lore declined to comment.

But there seems to be no doubt Amazon has noticed the early examples of Jet’s pricing beating its own. So, if these new Prime discounts aren’t the first hints of an impending war with Jet, they are at a minimum an example of the type of programs Bezos can ramp up if Jet starts getting traction.

Update: The story has been updated to clarify that Amazon’s special discounts on Vizio TVs for Prime members date back to 2013, not 2014.

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