Tech Industry

Trump cabinet member: Actually, I like Amazon

The head for the US Small Business Administration offers her support for the e-commerce giant, despite Trump's disdain.

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"I think small businesses will have an opportunity through Amazon," McMahon said at Amazon HQ.

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

To put it mildly, President Donald Trump and Jeff Bezos aren't best friends.

Despite that, Linda McMahon, head the US Small Business Administration and a Trump cabinet member, visited Amazon's Seattle headquarters Wednesday to congratulate the company for its work with small businesses.

"I am incredibly appreciative for companies like Amazon and the growth of Amazon," she said at a small press conference, "and the support that they give for small businesses and the opportunity to grow and bring their products to market."

McMahon's comments appeared to be a tad out of step with Trump's statement last year that Amazon "had a huge antitrust problem because they control so much." Asked about Trump's comment, McMahon said she doesn't see Amazon as the "big, bad wolf that would be gobbling up small businesses.

"I feel to the contrary," McMahon, founder and former CEO of WWE, continued. "I think small businesses will have an opportunity through Amazon."

It's worth noting that Trump isn't the only one who's raised concerns about Amazon's business. McMahon's visit comes as the company has faced louder criticism over its surging growth and expanding influence in retail. More brick-and-mortar stores are heading into bankruptcy or undergoing store closures, and this dreary situation is often placed at Bezos' feet.

Online, Amazon is by far the biggest game in town, with its site accounting for an estimated 43 percent of US online retail. That can present a tricky situation for third-party retailers, according to an SLI Systems survey published this month, since most sellers come to Amazon to increase their revenues but also worry the company will use their sales data to compete against them.

Now, as Amazon plans to expand into groceries with its planned $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods, both the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and a Rhode Island congressman are calling for antitrust reviews of the deal.

For the many vendors that have been able to use Amazon effectively, business has been very good and Amazon has been working harder to tell their stories. The online seller repeatedly mentioned discounts from small businesses and entrepreneurs during this year's Prime Day. The emphasis worked, with the company reporting on Monday that 40 million items were sold from those vendors during the sale, double the year before.

A handful of small businesses that sell on Amazon came to Wednesday's event, after meeting with McMahon to talk about their work with the e-commerce titan. One of those firms was Combat Flip Flops, which supports workers in Afghanistan and refugees in Lebanon through its products.

"They've been our strongest retail partner," said Combat Flip Flops CEO Matt Griffin, a former Army Ranger. "They just seem really committed to helping us grow."

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