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Transcript: Amazon’s Dave Clark on “Face the Nation,” November 28, 2021

The following is a transcript of an interview with Amazon CEO, Worldwide Consumer, Dave Clark that aired Sunday, November 28, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION, the American consumer is the engine of the U.S. economy and we’re now officially in peak holiday shopping. We are joined now by Dave Clark. He’s the CEO of Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer Business. Mr. Clark, good morning to you. 

AMAZON WORLDWIDE CONSUMER CEO DAVE CLARK: Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: From where you sit, what can you tell us? Is price inflation eating into holiday spending? What do you expect this season?

CLARK: Well, we’re right in the middle of what we call “Turkey 5,” which is between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, and we’re off to a great start. We had a record-breaking Black Friday and we’re seeing customers engaged. You know, it was really interesting to see how customers are spending in this first post-vaccine holiday as we start to come back together. And as you might expect, consumers are spending on things like apparel. We’re seeing a lot of upticks in denim and dresses. We’re seeing a lot of things like home decor, particularly in our holiday- holiday decor, which is showing that I think families and friends are preparing to come back together as they just did at Thanksgiving and plan to do in the Christmas holidays. We continue to see spending on things like toys. Lots of kids are going to have a good visit from Santa this holiday season, I suspect as we continue to support there. And a little bit of downturn in electronics, as- you know, people have spent so much during COVID supporting their Home Office and various electronics spend. But off to a very good start, I don’t see inflation particularly impacting consumers this holiday season so far, and we’re very optimistic about what’s to come.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Not impacting consumers, let me ask you about the pandemic then. The White House has blamed the Delta variant for adding to shipping delays given this developing news about a new variant that’s circulating. I’m wondering what you think the impact on business might be here.

CLARK: Well, I think as we’ve heard throughout the morning, it’s very early in the process of understanding what’s happening with the new variant, and I, for one, am incredibly optimistic around what the scientists in these companies that have supported us with these miraculous vaccines are going to do. And I think consumers are going to wait and see in terms of what happens with that but are going to move on with their lives into this holiday season. And I think we’re going to continue to see- people- people are definitely going towards deals and considered spend is what they evaluate for this holiday in particular as they come back together with their family and friends. You know, people want to have a very thoughtful holiday season and want to, you know, prepare themselves to go back out into the world, if you will, and that’s what we’re seeing in their spending. But we are optimistic about what’s ahead and what’s ahead in 2022.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said miraculous vaccines, are you going to change your company’s policy and require vaccination of employees?

CLARK: Well, we’re in a- we’ve been in a really good position throughout the pandemic where we’ve been able to- we’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars investing in laboratory equipment to be able to test our teams weekly for whoever wants to be tested. And we’ve been promoting vaccine clinics. We’ve done over 1,800 on-site vaccine clinics at our own facilities to get our folks vaccinated. So, we’re incentivizing, we’re trying to make it easier to do, we’re educating our teams. We’re not planning to move to mandates, as we sit today, but we think we have a very good balance of activity in place. We do think vaccines is the way out of this pandemic and we continue to work with our teams to incentivize them and help them understand why it’s so important and get them vaccinated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Amazon said during its earnings that it was labor that was a big constraint for you. If you pay $15 an hour as a starting wage, $18 an hour average pay. Why are you short on workers?

CLARK: Well, we’re having great success hiring, but it is a challenge, you know, we hired- we actually onboarded 45,000 people last week. So, we are hiring a lot of people and continue- people continue to be attracted to the great offer we have in pay. As you said, it’s $18 on average and lots of hiring incentives that are kind of unprecedented really of these sorts of $3,000 sign-on bonuses, lots of extra hourly incentives. But labor across the US, particularly in metropolitan areas, has been very tight this season. And I know when I talked to- while we’ve had success and it continues to be a challenge and there are certain areas of the country where it’s certainly harder to fill than others. You know, I hear from small businesses every day about how challenging it is for them to fill their roles. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why? 

CLARK: Well, I think it’s just because people are looking at their lives so differently through the course of the pandemic. I don’t think there’s a silver bullet, there’s a lot of different reasons. But people have evaluated, you know, what kind of jobs do they want to have. Do they want to be in the food service business? Do they want to be in retail, or do they want to be in fulfillment? What are they- do both people in the family want to work? What’s the life structure and set-up? So many things have changed for people during the course, the pandemic that it’s hard to say one particular thing. We’re proud of the offering we have for employees, and we- we’re finding success with it. As I said, you know, hiring, you know, over 40,000 people a week for the next few weeks. But it’s a challenge.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In the April letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos acknowledged, though, that Amazon needs to do a better job for employees. When I looked at your website it says sick leave is available based on local laws, it said most leaves are unpaid except pregnancy and parental leaves. If someone gets COVID and they has to be- and they have to be out of work, do they get fired? What kind of guarantees do they have?

CLARK: Well, first I’d say, I think we have among the best benefits in the world for our hourly employees. The- the employees who work in our fulfillment centers have exactly the same benefits as I do. And so- and we offer a maternity leave and paternity leave in a way that most people at those levels don’t have access to. We have throughout the pandemic also offered–

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you don’t want a federal mandate for that?

CLARK: Well, I think that’s- I think it could be very interesting to see what that could do for the country. I worry about what that means for small businesses. You know, we have the capability and the resources at our scale to do a lot of good for our employees. That can be more challenging for small and medium sized businesses. And I think that’s where most of the concern you hear with that lies.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Dave Clark, good to talk to you. Thank you for making time today. We’ll be right back.

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