Internet bookseller Amazon.com said Wednesday it will begin allowing any merchant, large or small, to link to its site on the World Wide Web and sell its product to its millions of users.
In his latest attempt to turn his four-year old company into an Internet superstore, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos announced that Amazon will today launch zShops, essentially linking hundreds of vendors to its online store and integrating those vendors into its existing credit card payment system for a fee.
It means that any small, local business can suddenly sell worldwide without any significant start-up costs.
Amazon said its range of products will initially expand to 500,000 items, four times the amount to be found at major retailers such as K-Mart Corp.
Merchants can pay a $9.99 monthly fee to list up to 3,000 items, or they can list items individually for 10 cents apiece. Sellers will also have to pay transaction fees ranging from 1.25 pecent to 9.75 percent, depending on the product's price and the customer's payment method.
For zShop credit card purchases, Amazon will get 60 cents per transaction up to 4.7 percent of the transaction amount.
Sellers can offer almost any product except firearms, living creatures, pornography and illegal items like drugs. Amazon.com will not prescreen the merchants, but customers will be able to rate them based on their customer service.
"Amazon wants to get their fingers in every Internet purchase that takes place," said Ken Cassar, an analyst at online research firm Jupiter Communications. "This is getting them closer to that goal."
Amazon.com shares soared Wednesday $14.81 1/4 to close at $80.68 3/4 .
Seattle-based Amazon.com has built itself into an Internet shopping hub in just four years. While it once exclusively sold books online, it now offers music, videos, auctions, toys and consumer electronics.
It has more than 12 million customers, up from 10.7 million just three months ago.
Amazon.com also has been pouring millions of dollars into outside ventures, such as online pharmacy drugstore.com and Internet pet shop Pets.com.