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Amazon delivered a disappointing quarter and outlook on Thursday as the ecommerce giant was swamped by higher costs to run its warehouses and deliver packages to customers.

Shares fell 8 per cent in after-hours trade.

After a long-running surge in sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon’s outlook has dimmed.

The company’s expenses swelled as it offered higher pay to attract workers during a labour shortage, and even then it could not fully staff warehouses.

A fulfillment centre in New York City voted to create Amazon’s first US union, a result the retailer is contesting. And higher fuel prices are eating into consumers’ disposable income while making delivery more expensive for Amazon.

The Seattle-based company parried by raising fees. Partway through the just-ended first quarter, Amazon hiked the price of its fast-shipping club Prime, which has garnered more than 200 million subscribers, by 17 per cent to $139 annually in the United States. Effective Thursday, it is imposing an average 5 per cent fuel and inflation surcharge on merchants that use Amazon’s US warehousing services as well.

Amazon’s forecast shows these actions may not be enough to counter such challenges. The company expects to lose as much as $1 billion in operating income this quarter, or make as much as $3 billion. That’s down from an operating profit of $7.7 billion in the same period last year.

Andy Jassy, Amazon’s chief executive, said the company has finally met its warehouse staffing and capacity needs, but it still has work to do in improving productivity.

“This may take some time, particularly as we work through ongoing inflationary and supply chain pressures, but we see encouraging progress on a number of customer experience dimensions, including delivery speed performance as were now approaching levels not seen since the months immediately preceding the pandemic in early 2020,” he said in a press release.

The division that Jassy ran before becoming CEO last year, Amazon Web Services (AWS), has traditionally been a bright spot for the company. The unit increased revenue 37 per cent to $18.4 billion, slightly ahead of analysts’ estimates.

In retail, the e-commerce giant has had mixed results turning to brick-and-mortar stores to power food delivery and meet consumers wherever they wished to shop. Amazon said in March it planned to close all 68 of its bookstores, pop-ups and other home goods shops, as it focuses on grocery stores. It recently automated two Whole Foods Market locations to make them cashierless. The company’s physical store sales grew 17 per cent to $4.6 billion.

Still, Amazon’s outlook reflects broader industry challenges.

U.S. government data shows that online retail sales fell 6.4 per cent in March after declining 3.5 per cent the month prior, the first back-to-back drop since the last two months of 2020. Some economists attributed the change to household budgets strained from higher gasoline prices, while others blamed shifting seasonal patterns. Just this week, a major Amazon delivery partner, United Parcel Service Inc, said it expected e-commerce delivery growth to slow.

The world’s biggest online retailer projected net sales of between $116 billion and $121 billion for the second quarter.

Analysts were expecting $125.48 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.