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By Stuart Woods, with files from Scott MacDonald
March 5, 2010
6:11 PM

Filed under News

It’s official: Amazon wants in to Canada

After several days of speculation, the rumours have been confirmed: Amazon is seeking government approval to establish physical operations in Canada, a move that could have a big impact on the Canadian retail scene.

According to documents obtained by Q&Q from the federal government’s Privy Council Office, Amazon’s application to “establish a new Canadian business” – filed on Jan. 27 – is now being reviewed by Governor General Michaëlle Jean to see if it complies with the Investment Canada Act. The new business would be called Amazon Fulfillment Services Canada Inc.

An Amazon spokesperson would not elaborate on the company’s Canadian plans while the application is being reviewed. “We’re always looking for new ways to serve our Canadian customers, but it’s premature to discuss our plans right now,” the spokesperson said.

If Amazon were to be given the go-ahead to open a Canadian warehouse or home office, it could mean the end of its distribution partnership with SCI Logistics, formerly known as Assured Logistics, a subsidiary of the Canada Post Group of Companies. It could also be a sign that Amazon plans to expand its offerings of non-book products in Canada. At present, Amazon.ca sells books, CDs, and DVDs, as well as home and garden products. Amazon’s U.S. website, meanwhile, offers a much wider array of products, including the Kindle, jewellery, health care products, electronics, and groceries.

While details about Amazon’s Canadian plans are still scarce, it seems that members of the publishing community were the first to learn about the Privy Council review. Late last week, Association of Canadian Publishers executive director Carolyn Wood sent out a notice to members about the application.

One industry source, who did not want to be named, told Q&Q that an expanded Canadian presence for Amazon wouldn’t be a bad thing if it improved the company’s services for Canadian publishers. In particular, the source said, a Canadian office might lead to more stringent enforcement of territorial rights on Amazon.ca: “If opening their own business in Canada means they’re going to tidy up their website, which is very frustrating for a lot of us now, that would be great.”

Amazon.ca was launched in 2002 despite objections from many in the bookselling community. At the time, the Department of Canadian Heritage ruled that the Investment Canada Act did not apply to Amazon.ca because the company was not establishing a physical presence in Canada.

Amazon is headquartered in Seattle and operates separate websites in Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, China, and Japan. The company operates its own warehouses in each of those territories except Canada.

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