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Amazon's handyman business ratchets up early gains

One year after its launch, the Home Services program is now in 30 metro areas and offers over 1,200 service options.

Amazon Home Services faces plenty of competition from Pro.com, Angie's List and others.
Chris Henderson/Corbis

Amazon doesn't just want to sell us televisions and toilet paper. It wants to be there for us when that TV needs to be mounted and that toilet has to be unclogged.

That's the gentle reminder the online retailer offered on the first anniversary of Amazon Home Services, which connects you to local service providers such as plumbers, painters and goat grazers. Amazon noted Wednesday that Home Services customer orders rose, on average, by 20 percent per month since the launch last March.

Amazon's push into services is an important new frontier for the company, one designed to convince you to buy bulky, big-ticket items online by making it easier to connect you with people who can wall-mount a TV or assemble a treadmill. It's also a different way for Amazon to connect with its customers by having it become a hub for odd jobs and services, like finding private yoga instructors or aerial photographers.

Yet, with the few numbers Amazon provided publicly Wednesday, it's hard to tell just how big Home Services has become and how it rates against a handful of competitors, including Angie's List, Pro.com and Yelp.

On top of that, there's concern that the on-demand economy is in trouble, with more companies raising their prices to stay afloat and others shutting down completely. Amazon, one of the biggest tech companies in the world, should be able to weather these problems in the short term, but the trend raises questions about how many on-demand services and companies will be available in the future.

For now, Amazon is talking up its strength in the new business, with the highest sales coming from the major markets of New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Home Services is also now available in 30 metro areas, up from four when it launched, and provides more than 1,200 service options.