NEW YORK - Amazon, which is racing to deliver packages faster, is turning to its employees with a proposition: Quit your job and we'll help you start a business delivering Amazon package.
The offer, announced Monday, comes as Amazon seeks to speed up its shipping time from two days to one for its Prime members. The company sees the new incentive as a way to get more packages delivered to shoppers' doorsteps faster.
Amazon says it will cover up to $10,000 in startup costs for employees who are accepted into the program and leave their jobs. The company says it will also pay them three months' worth of their salary. The offer is open to most part-time and full-time Amazon employees, including warehouse workers who pack and ship orders. Whole Foods employees are not eligible to receive the new incentives.
Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. declined to say how many employees it expects to take them up on the offer.
Independent Amazon delivery business
The new employee incentive is part of a program Amazon started a year ago that lets anyone apply to launch an independent Amazon delivery business. It is part of the company's plan to control more of its deliveries on its own, rather than rely on UPS, the post office and other carriers. Startup costs start at $10,000 and contractors that participate are able to lease blue vans with the Amazon smile logo stamped on the side.
Overall, more than 200 Amazon delivery businesses have been created since it launched the program last June, said John Felton, Amazon's vice president of global delivery services.
One of them is run Milton Collier, a freight broker who started his business in Atlanta about eight months ago. Since then, it has grown to 120 employees with a fleet of 50 vans that can handle up to 200 delivery stops in a day. It has already been preparing for the one-day shipping switch by hiring more people.
"We're ready," says Collier.
Walmart goes head to head with Amazon
Walmart is rolling out next-day delivery on its most popular items, raising the stakes in the retail shipping wars.
America's largest retailer says Tuesday that it's been building its own network of more efficient e-commerce distribution centers to enable the faster delivery. The move comes just two weeks after online behemoth Amazon said it's upgrading its free shipping option to Prime members who pay $119 a year to one-day delivery from two-day delivery.
Analysts say Amazon needed to cut the delivery time in half to make its membership more attractive since other retailers like Walmart had offered free two-day deliveries without any membership.
Walmart's stepped-up efforts will only increase pressure on other rivals that are already investing in millions of dollars to shorten the delivery window.