The cost of Amazon Prime has been slashed from £79 to £59 for anyone who signs up between this Sunday (15th November) and the following Wednesday (18th). The UK MD made a pretty bold statement about the price cut: claiming "Amazon Prime is the best deal in the history of shopping and for four days, customers can get an annual membership at a great discount – just in time for Christmas". The question is whether it is worth it.
The timing is clearly designed to coincide the run-up to Black Friday, which Amazon makes an impressive fuss over. Amazon.co.uk saw more than 5.5 million items ordered at a rate of around 64 items per second, last year, and this year there will be more than 7,000 deals on offer. Prime members will get 30-minute early access to Lightning Deals - which will mean they should be able to grab any bargains before they sell out.
You'll know from your experience last year whether this is something you value. If you tend to be glued to these deals, and have a very flexible shopping policy, you can get some decent discounts. However, if you only get the chance to pop back a couple of times a day, and you're after something specific, you'll get far less value from it on Black Friday.
The most commonly used benefit is likely to be delivery. Prime members can get one-day delivery on millions of products. Christopher North, the UK MD, pointed out that sign ups always increase just before Christmas, as people realise they need presents in a hurry.
From this month, members in Greater London and parts of Hertfordshire and Berkshire receive free same-day delivery on one million products. And those in eligible postcodes in London and Birmingham can also get £6.99 one-hour delivery on over 10,000 products through the Prime Now mobile app (or a free two-hour same-day delivery slot).
Whether you get enough value from the delivery services depends on how much delivery you usually pay for. If you usually spend more than £20 a time, and you can wait for 3-5 days for delivery, you'll be spending nothing on delivery, so Prime is worthless.
It will therefore only be worth it for those who spend less that £20 each time. They will end up paying £2.75 for first class post - so Prime will pay if they make 22 purchases a year. Alternatively, if you tend to pay £5.99 for one-day delivery, you'll need ten deliveries a year to make it pay.
There are a number of add-ons that Amazon hopes will convince people to sign up. One is that you can borrow one Kindle book a month for free - and there are a million titles to choose from. If you are signed up to a rival subscription service - but only borrow one title a month - then you can switch to Prime and immediately pay less. However, most of these rivals offer unlimited Kindle books a month, so if you borrow more than one a month, Amazon is pricier.
With Prime Music, you get access to a million songs to stream and download. This can't really be compared sensibly with the alternatives, which offer more than 30 million songs. Spotify does this for free too - if you are willing to put up with adverts. However, there will be a small number of people who spend £9.99 a month on a streaming service, and only play the songs that are available through Amazon, and for them, Prime constitutes a decent saving on music alone.
One of the extras Amazon has really focused on is TV. If you sign up, you'll get access to more than 15,000 popular movies and TV episodes. If you already pay for a streaming service like Netflix, this is well worth considering as an alternative, because at £59, Amazon Prime is cheaper.
Before making the decision, it's worth checking the kinds of films and programmes that are available, and whether you will get as much out of them as you do Netflix. It's also worth bearing in mind that in future it will exclusively offer the new TV show staring Jeremy Clarkson. Richard Hammond and James May. The impact of this information will depend on whether you are a fan or not.
Is it worth it?
There are some people for whom a £59 Prime membership makes obvious and immediate sense. If you already spend more than £59 a year on Amazon deliveries, you pay for an alternative music or video streaming service you could get from Amazon, or you'd crawl over broken glass to see Jeremy Clarkson, then it's a no-brainer.
For everyone else, it's a balance. It's worth looking at how much you currently spend on all the services you could get for free through Prime. If this is less than £59, you need to think whether you would get enough added value from things like the video or one-day delivery to make it worthwhile for you.
Sadly, there's no answer that works for everyone: Amazon Prime is a bargain for some people and a complete waste of money for others - you just have to do the maths. Just make sure you do it soon, so you can take advantage of the discount while it lasts.