by Stephen Garner

amazonOnline mega-retailer Amazon reported a profit of nearly $2 billion for the full year of 2017, the largest in its history, as the online retailer drew millions of new customers to its Prime fast-shipping club for the holiday season and as changes to U.S. tax law added to its bottom line.

Net sales increased 31 percent to $177.9 billion in 2017, compared with $136.0 billion in 2016, while net sales increased 38 percent to $60.5 billion in the fourth quarter alone, compared with $43.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Some highlights in 2017 for Amazon include having more than five billion items shipped with Prime worldwide, and have more new paid members joined Prime in 2017 than any previous year — both worldwide and in the U.S. And, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) shipped billions of items for small and medium-sized businesses, selling on Amazon worldwide in 2017.

Amazon hired nearly 130,000 employees globally in 2017, excluding acquisitions. Additionally, Amazon now employs more than 17,500 veterans and military spouses across the U.S. and plans to hire over 10,000 more by 2021.

Additionally, Amazon launched its retail and third-party marketplace offering in Australia with fast delivery on millions of products, including items from thousands of small and medium-sized businesses. The retailer also launched Prime in the Netherlands, Singapore, and Luxembourg, and added the ability for customers in Belgium to join Prime and shop in Dutch.

“Our 2017 projections for Alexa were very optimistic, and we far exceeded them. We don’t see positive surprises of this magnitude very often — expect us to double down,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “We’ve reached an important point where other companies and developers are accelerating adoption of Alexa. There are now over 30,000 skills from outside developers, customers can control more than 4,000 smart home devices from 1,200 unique brands with Alexa, and we’re seeing a strong response to our new far-field voice kit for manufacturers. Much more to come and a huge thank you to our customers and partners.”

Looking ahead to 2018, Amazon expects net sales to be between $47.75 billion and $50.75 billion, or to grow between 34 percent and 42 percent compared with the first quarter of 2017.